• 36°

BPD made big steps in 2020; more planned

By Carrie Stambaugh

The Batesville Police Department had an unusual 2020 full of change, but if the COVID-19 pandemic subsides in 2021, the year promises a return to its community outreach programs.

Looking back at 2020, there were more than 23,000 dispatches recorded between January 1 and December 16, according to dispatch and police records. Of those, there were 6,167 actual calls for service, BPD officers made 478 arrests and issued 1,337 citations in that time period.

The biggest change at the BPD was the retirement of Chief Jimmy McCloud after a 27-year career with the BPD. This advanced former Deputy Chief Kerry Pittman to the top post. Pittman is a 21-year veteran of the BPD, a Panola County native and graduate of South Panola High School.

Pittman was recommended to the post by the departing McCloud, who told alderman that his appointment would allow for the continuation of efforts he had been working to put in place for many years including its community outreach programs aimed at fostering deeper relationships with members of the public, therefore building and maintaining trust in the department.

Chief Pittman said he plans to implement many of the plans McCloud began including finishing and maintaining the Mississippi Law Enforcement Accreditation Program.

The program, administered by the Mississippi Law Enforcement Accreditation Commission, is a set of 140 professional standards that an agency must comply with over a two-year assessment period. The standards cover law enforcement, communication and detention functions.

“It holds the department to a higher standard. I believe in having a proactive police department, not just reactive,” said Pittman.

The program utilizes the “national best practice standards for law enforcement,” which cover “life, health, safety, legal and other critical law enforcement requirements affecting agency and public interest,” along with seeking “the reduction of major risk and high liability conditions for both the agency and the employees.”

Accreditation goals cover six major areas including strengthening crime prevention and control capabilities, formalizing essential management practices, establishing fair and nondiscriminatory personnel practices, improving service delivery, solidifying interagency cooperation and coordination and boosting citizen staff confidence in the agency.

Pittman said the department is also looking forward to a return to its community relations efforts. These included Adopt A Cop, Coffee and Conversation, monthly TRIAD meetings, Picnic with the Police, as well as officers visiting Vacation Bible Schools.

The new city-wide camera system will also come online in 2021, according to Pittman. The system, similar to what is in place in cities like New Orleans, will have cameras at strategic locations throughout town.

“They are working on the final touches now,” said Pittman. The system, which cost in excess of $600,000, includes 31 cameras with tag readers at all the major intersections in town.

“An officer can’t be everywhere at all times,” said Pittman, noting the cameras will be the departments “eyes where we can’t be all the time… if something happens, we can pull it up.”