Thursday, May 1, 2014
Board OKs task force to study PD
By SUE WATSON
The Holly Springs mayor and board of aldermen have agreed to undertake a study of the police department with the formation of a task force.
Marcel Jojola of Holly Springs has volunteered to serve on the task force as has David McElreath, professor of legal studies at Ole Miss in Oxford.
Jojola appeared before the mayor and board of aldermen to present his experience in policing. He lives in the city and is a retired police chief from California, serving in policing there for 28 years.
Jojola took his first job as police chief at age 28. He said he is experienced in police officers’ standards and training. He served as police chief of Calexico, Calif., a town on the Mexican border at Mexicali.
He said nepotism in the police department in Calexico was the obstruction to good policing.
He said three factors are important for successful police chiefs – economics, personnel and politics.
He has experience in creating senior volunteers.
Jojolo said background checking before hiring is an essential and that lie detector testing is also crucial in keeping out undesirables. He also developed a youth program that helped reduce delinquency, and closing down bars involved in drug trafficking was also effective in reducing heroin trafficking in Huron, Calif.
Other ways in which youth were encouraged was by the police department sponsoring tuition of college.
Jojola said he has experience in consulting with law enforcement and teaching across the United States.
His last 14 years as police chief were spent in Bear Valley, Calif., where he said there was zero tolerance for drug dealers. The city had a youth program and a program to contact seniors daily and to pick up and deliver their medications to them.
He said the biggest thing in communities is complaints that there is no money. A seniors volunteer program worked, where they served as clerks, in parades, and making phone calls to check on seniors. These efforts and exchange of information do not cost the department a cent and reduce officer turnover, he said.
“The matter of turnover concerns me most in this city,” Jojola said. “You are on the board and you have a fire department and a police department. Look at it. It shows the fire department has great leadership. The police department is losing people to the sheriff’s department. He has (the sheriff has) a staff that functions. We (the city) are reactive, not proactive. We need more patrols and fewer people in the office.”
Police should identify criminals in the community.
Jojola said eight years ago he came through Holly Springs investigating an identity theft and saw the flags around the square. People talked about what a great community this is.
“The moon is in the right position (to fine-tune law enforcement),” Jojola told the mayor and board. “We have to make it attractive for other people to come in. There is no reason we cannot be like Germantown or Collierville, Tenn.
“We don’t need a gestapo; we need a police department that meets the city’s needs.”
Alderman Sharon Gipson said she favors going straight ahead and searching for a new police chief and then letting the new chief that is hired decide on these other concerns. She said she likes the idea of asking seniors to help by reporting what they see to the department.
“What would you share with us, what would you do as a consultant?” Gipson asked.
Jojola said he would help evaluate what programs work. He is a consultant to Plantersville, he said. In that city the culture changed, merchants footed the bill for a police car.
“The fact of life is lots of guys come in with no experience and want to use this as a pivot to their next job,” he said.
The job of policing is very scientific. Officers must learn the laws and how to mitigate problems.
His consultants provide answers.
“Patrolmen are not perfect,” Jojola said. “They need to understand what you can and cannot do.”
Mayor Kelvin Buck said the board can understand our vision – “We can do this ourselves.”
“Look at the last seven or eight years that has led to a new police chief every two or three years,” he said. “We are asking the board to not continue to do it that way, to come up with some sound recommendations. We do not want to go through this process again. We have one person, Alderman (Bernita) Fountain, who is an expert.”
Gipson said as chief prosecutor for the City of Jackson, she trained over 400 police personnel.
“That’s what resumés are for,” she said.
She said she observed the actions of some of the previous boards.
“I have watched some since we have been here turning over the authority we were elected to do to a consultant,” Gipson said. “We owe it to the community. Now you (Buck) are serving as mayor and police chief.
“We could be looking at resumés of police chiefs as well. My position is to simply review resumés.”
Alderman Tim Liddy asked Jojola if the city’s problems are different from those cities where he has consulted.
Jojola said each community has unique problems.
“Look at the budget,” he said. “I’m old school. My last four jobs were to hire police chiefs in four communities. That means adequate backgrounds should be done. The candidates should be asked questions such as have you ever terminated anybody? Do you know how to get a federal grant? Have you ever handled a labor dispute?”
Jojola said 75 percent of a chief’s stress comes from within his department, 15 percent from family life and 10 percent from the general public.
He said police officers need experience in psychological exams, lie detector tests and in the use of tasers, good common sense, good judgement and the ability to react to certain situations.
Alderman Mark Miller thanked Jojola and McElreath (not present) for their offers to help.
Buck said both Jojola and McElreath had said they would serve free of charge.
“They would be advisory,” he said. “I suggest a five-person task force. I asked Alderman Fountain to be on it, William Foster (Mississippi Highway Patrol), David McElreath, Marcel Jojola and myself.”
He said the task force would study the police department and he asked for a motion to that effect.
Fountain asked for a person from the community to be a sixth on the task force.
Buck said task force activities would be public and discussions would be public in order to get public input.
Fountain suggested adding someone who works with Neighborhood Watch to serve on the task force. Buck had no objections.
Fountain asked if there would be a legal issue with her serving, since she is a voting board member.
City board attorney Shirley Byers said she needed to check into it.
“What about me?” Buck asked.
Byers said no, because Buck does not get to vote on any motion.
Discussion ended, and Liddy made a motion to establish the task force. Alderman Christy Owens seconded. The motion passed 4-1 with Gipson voting nay.
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