White must get right to work at NPDPublished 12:01am Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Danny White has his work cut out for him.
A good man, by all accounts, with decades of experience in Natchez crime fighting, White may already know that it’s not his experience that matters now.
White smartly stayed out of the limelight while his city foolishly fought over him for months. He never publicly touted himself for the job, even though his last name created the perfect campaign slogan for a black man in a small Southern city that sometimes battles race concerns but still has a great sense of humor — “Black and White is right for the job.”
But while the politicians fought and eventually found common ground, White was already working in the job he surely thought would eventually become his.
The last nine months weren’t a time to rock the boat at NPD, but now that White has job security in hand, rocking the boat may be exactly what’s needed.
The public — black, white, old, young — has lost faith in the Natchez Police Department.
The relationship dissolved gradually during the last three to five years.
You can’t blame the public; NPD has displayed more than one black eye in recent years, including the federal trial of two officers who were accused in connection with the theft of a man’s credit card and his alleged brutal beating. One officer went to jail; the other was acquitted and is still on the force.
During the same time period, several violent crimes stole headlines and worried residents.
It’s no secret that Natchez police officers turnover quickly due, in large part, to low salaries and that the equipment available to officers seeking to do their jobs is less than what is often provided to officers in the much smaller neighboring Vidalia.
Wiping the slate clean and handing out raises to officers is something White would surely love to do on day 2 as the new chief, but it’s probably not feasible.
That said, White must begin an earnest campaign today to accomplish both goals simultaneously.
A good chief must push his department to be on the leading edge of crime fighting. He must never give up when requesting more funding for equipment, salaries and training. And he must be willing to bring solutions, not just problems, to the Natchez Board of Aldermen.
Demanding that the men and women inside the walls of the police department respect him as chief and all community members as people will, in time, begin to result in community-wide respect for the entire department.
Being an outspoken public figure that appears at community events, answers questions about crime and is quick to defend his men and women will contribute to rebuilding public trust.
NPD has plenty of good officers. But it has lacked good leadership for too long.
White now has the authority to change that and in turn change Natchez.
It’s not experience that matters now; everyone is watching to see what White will do now and in the future.
Restoring faith, fighting crime and leading NPD into the future is no easy task, but it’s the job White has signed on to accept.
Julie Cooper is the managing editor of The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at 601-445-3551 or firstname.lastname@example.org.