Police should not be an afterthought

Published 12:05 am Sunday, August 22, 2010

Something is wrong when the men and women who protect our life and property become an afterthought.

But that may be the best description for how we’re treating the Natchez Police Department, an afterthought.

Questions of whether or not we’re adequately equipping the force, adequately compensating officers and adequately placing our standards of conduct on officers need to be top of our collective mind.

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Equipment issues and pay issues are ones that have been around for a few years, yet little seems to be done to address the growing problems.

Both seem to stem from either, at best, a lack of communication and shared common goals between NPD’s leadership and the City of Natchez Board of Aldermen or, at worst, apathy.

Aldermen have woefully underfunded the NPD for years. And perhaps NPD leadership has done a poor job of communicating the severity of the needs.

To underscore this, NPD recently had to go to the business community to take donations to replace a police dog.

At least some officers on the force hang their heads a bit with the knowledge they are among the lowest paid, most poorly equipped agency in the area.

It’s a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you continually ignore problems and don’t talk frankly about needs, you’ll wind up with a department with a broken will and no direction.

We don’t believe we’re at that stage yet, but when front-line officers look to their neighboring agencies and see what they’re missing — better pay, better equipment, etc. — it doesn’t take long before we’ll get there.

NPD leaders and aldermen need to sit down together and discuss the needs, involving the public in the discussion. It’s our police department and our city, but we expect our representatives to make it a success.