Rep. Adrienne Wooten, D-Jackson
After hoisting a crisp new American flag above Jackson police headquarters, Jackson's top law-enforcement officials remembered officers who've fallen in the line of duty.
Police Chief Lee Vance has served JPD for more than two decades, a span in which at least nine of his fellow officers were killed while on the job. The police and community have a bond, Vance said.
"When a police officer is killed in the line of duty, that bond is broken," Vance said during his remarks this morning at JPD headquarters, the very building where a murder suspect killed Det. Eric Smith and then himself during an interrogation on the third floor of the downtown police station in April 2013.
Three months later, a car hit Officer Bruce Jacob while he was trying to remove debris from Interstate 55. In all, 17 officers have died while serving since 1893.
The ceremony came on the heels of the murders of two officers, Liquori Tate and Benjamin Deen, in Hattiesburg during a traffic stop. Officers remembered those men with yellow roses placed at a memorial in front of JPD headquarters. When such incidents occur, Vance said the bond between cops and the community needs to be rebuilt.
A group of people awaiting judges to call their names for municipal court gave varying accounts of JPD's relationship with the community. One man waiting on court, who declined to give his name, said the department's community relations are alright, while a woman, who also didn’t want to give her name, said the police are "too rude and disrespectful."
Chief Vance said that he believes there's a strong bond between the police and residents.
"I think the average citizens and the average peace officer want the same things: They want a peaceful community to raise their families and thrive in their professions. We don't want any barriers between ourselves and the community," Vance said of policemen and policewomen.
Defense attorney and Mississippi Rep. Adrienne Wooten, D-Jackson, gave the keynote speech and said police do the unthinkable, often for the ungrateful. She agreed with Vance that tension between police and the community requires effort to rebuild. With several incidents in the past year, including the deaths of several men at the hands of police, as well as the killings of police officers, she has observed law-enforcement interacting more positively with citizens.
"It's more important now than ever for police officers to be out there in the community reassuring them that (police) have their best interests at heart and that at the end of the day, their number one primary interest is to protect and serve," Wooten told the Jackson Free Press.
Vance said his department works hard to earn trust.
"We have C.O.P.S. meetings; we organize our neighborhoods; we've got the reserve officers working for us; we've got the citizens' police academy. All these things are designed for us to have a strong relationship with the people we serve," Vance told the JFP.