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Community partnerships, technology discussed at police chiefs conference

 

Starkville Police Chief Frank Nichols speaks during the Mississippi Association of Police Chiefs Conference at The Mill at MSU in Starkville Tuesday afternoon.

Starkville Police Chief Frank Nichols speaks during the Mississippi Association of Police Chiefs Conference at The Mill at MSU in Starkville Tuesday afternoon. Photo by: Deanna Robinson/Dispatch Staff

 

John Miller, president of the Association of Chiefs of Police, speaks during the Mississippi Association of Police Chiefs Conference at The Mill at MSU in Starkville Tuesday afternoon.

John Miller, president of the Association of Chiefs of Police, speaks during the Mississippi Association of Police Chiefs Conference at The Mill at MSU in Starkville Tuesday afternoon.
Photo by: Deanna Robinson/Dispatch Staff

 

Christopher Hudson, a PhD student at Mississippi State's Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems, demonstrates a robot that could be used alongside police during the conference Tuesday.

Christopher Hudson, a PhD student at Mississippi State's Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems, demonstrates a robot that could be used alongside police during the conference Tuesday.
Photo by: Alex Holloway/Dispatch Staff

 

 

Alex Holloway

 

 

About 100 police chiefs from across Mississippi converged on Starkville Tuesday for the beginning of the Mississippi Association of Police Chiefs winter conference. 

 

The city is hosting the conference for the first time, at the Mill at Mississippi State University, after several years of lobbying from Police Chief Frank Nichols. 

 

"It's always been that we didn't have a facility big enough," Nichols said. "Now that we have this beautiful facility at the Mill, I've been trying to get this conference here for two years." 

 

The conference, which runs through Friday, offers a chance for chiefs across the state to learn from other chiefs or professionals in law enforcement-related fields about a range of topics -- from social media and dealing with the modern political climate to how animal cruelty might hint at a future violent offender. 

 

Tuesday's conference events kicked off with an opening ceremony, wherein Nichols and Oktibbeha County Sheriff Steve Gladney welcomed the chiefs to Starkville. They were joined by Starkville Mayor Lynn Spruill and Ward 6 Alderman and Vice Mayor Roy A. Perkins, as well as Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors President Orlando Trainer. 

 

Once the opening ceremony concluded, the conference began with several executive training seminars for the chiefs. 

 

One, hosted by David May from Mississippi State University, focused on police research partnerships, addressing the benefits and challenges of such partnerships. He said they can help invoke positive change in a police department, as his research has with the Meridian Police Department. 

 

However, he also said such partnerships can also be unproductive for police, as researchers may simply come in, get the data they need and leave without ever following up with the department. 

 

Meridian Police Chief Benny Dubose said the research, which led to the creation of leadership councils, has been "invaluable" to his police department. 

 

"It was very difficult for us to get the public involved into a conversation about what was going on in the city of Meridian," Dubose said. "This leadership council brought in individuals from all over the city -- we've had judges, probation officers, politicians and so forth. We all got together. One of the things Dr. May's group helped us with is they offered us insight into what the public actually thought about our police department." 

 

Through that insight, Dubose said, his department better understands what the public wants. Likewise, he said, the department can communicate its desires to the public and help them decide to "claim ownership" of the city's problems to help address them. 

 

In another seminar, Christopher Hudson, a Ph.D student at Mississippi State University's Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems, told the chiefs about work the university is doing to develop robots for use alongside police officers. 

 

Hudson showed the group the "Dr. Robot Jaguar V4," which the university has purchased and modified for potential use in SWAT situations. He talked about the challenges associated, from figuring out a proper control method, to training officers on how to use the robot in high-pressure situations. 

 

Hudson also showed a demo video of "Lassie," a robot MSU is developing for similar uses and smaller "Tiny Tact" robots, which are small, cheap robots that could be used in everyday police situations. 

 

Natchez police chief and association vice president Walter Armstrong said the conference offers, beyond the seminars, a chance for chiefs to learn from each other. 

 

"Most of the challenges we're facing in our city, or our jurisdiction, others are also facing those same challenges," Armstrong said. "This gives us an opportunity to learn from them on how to face those challenges." 

 

Ironically, Nichols said, the first conference in Starkville might be the last outside of Jackson. The association holds a summer conference on the coast, and the winter conferences are held in cities that have the proper amenities to host a conference. Nichols said the association discussed permanently holding the winter conference in Jackson on Monday. 

 

"At least, if that is the truth, the last thing they got to see was Starkville and we're showing them a great time right now," he said. "I've gotten nothing but positive comments."

 

 

 

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