February 28, 2014 10:09:15 AM
The Starkville Police Department will formally open its first police substation at 2 p.m. today at 151 Alfred Perkins St.
The facility, donated by the Starkville Housing Authority, will serve as a home for the department's Community Oriented Policing division and be available as the city's first precinct where residents can file reports without traveling to SPD headquarters on Lampkin Street.
A plan to open the facility came together at the beginning of the year, SPD Chief Frank Nichols said. During his interview for police chief, Nichols told aldermen he hopes to establish four total precinct substations in Starkville. A location near Academy Crossing could open in the next two months, he said.
SPD will staff its new substation from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., he said, but officers will have access to the facility at all times.
"These precincts will give a higher sense of security and quicker response times. We've been absolutely welcomed in the area," Nichols said. "We're working to locate other locations. We're trying to get donations or at least a partial donation instead of going out and renting a building."
Nichols laid out an ambitious plan for the department during his interview with the city in February. In addition to founding four precincts, the 22-year SPD veteran called for the addition of 10 new officer positions within the next eight years and pay raises and adjustments for numerous employees, including dispatchers and animal control officers.
Staffing needs were immediately addressed when the board promoted John C. Thomas, a 25-year SPD veteran, to assistant chief after Nichols identified him to The Dispatch as the likely hire.
Internal promotions are next on Nichols' to-do list, he said. By the end of March, Nichols is expected to internally promote officers to two captain's, three lieutenant's and four sergeant's positions. Testing and interview dates are already scheduled, he said.
"I'm lucky that these positions can be filled internally. I work with a bunch of real professionals," Nichols said.
Once staffing changes are finalized, SPD will then begin conducting monthly meetings with in individual wards to help improve public relations. Nichols proposed those meetings, along with using social media and establishing a citizen police academy as ways to help connect residents with police officers.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch