OPD means professionalism

Published 6:00 am Sunday, July 17, 2016

Following the horrific shooting in Dallas, I visited with Oxford’s Chief of Police, Joey East.

I never had the pleasure to meet with the gentleman previously. I left the chief’s office even more proud to be a citizen of Oxford.

We briefly discussed the tragedy in Dallas which the chief indicated that he and his wife watched on television until 1 a.m. He stated it was painful to watch for many reasons including bringing back memories of a friend of his who was shot in the line of duty.

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Let’s hope our nation never faces another day such as this ever again. The police nationwide are under greater attack this year than at any time in my recollection. Could you imagine what society would be like without police protection? It’s frightening to imagine.

Oxford’s Police Department consists of 69 officers; three canines and six horses. This October we can welcome the arrival of four new officers. The OPD has been utilizing the services of our four legged friends (the dog variety) since 1993. The canines typically have a six year tenure on the force.

I asked Chief East what we can do as citizens to better show our appreciation to the officers.

He mentioned several things including being kind and thankful, letting them know how much we are grateful for their service. He added that anytime we can help with legislation at the state level to provide more support to our officers is always welcomed.

Next we shifted gears to discuss how automobile drivers should react after being stopped by police. The chief responded by emphasizing the less movement within the vehicle by all passengers is preferred with hands in full view. And if the traffic stop occurs at night, the inside car or truck light should be turned on with the driver remaining in the vehicle.

Chief East continued stating that at all times be courteous to the officer and remember that along the roadside is not the place for arguments as this is why we have courts of law.

The conversation then turned to what homeowners can do to better protect their homes against break-ins. Before addressing the home, the chief first wanted to highlight the fact that 99 percent of car burglaries occur because of unlocked vehicles. He stressed that “Neighborhood Watch” programs are very effective and home alarms are excellent deterrents. And anytime a homeowner leaves town for an extended period, one should notify the Police Department to get on the house check list. By having a neighbor or friend pick up mail and bring in newspapers, the more normal the activity reflected at the home, the better. Outside lights also contribute to the security.

Chief East is proud of the history of the Oxford Police Department and rightfully so. In his 25 years on the force, no officer has ever been shot and killed in the line of duty. This is a wonderful statistic of which we can all be thankful as a community. With all that is happening across the nation involving police this summer, Oxford can be a model city for Mississippi and beyond. Our police officers are here to protect us, all of us. Let’s hope we never forget this and reach out to them at each and every opportunity to say “thank you” from the bottom of our hearts. They deserve this and so much more.

Steve Vassallo is a contributing columnist and Oxford resident. He can be reached at sovassallo@gmail.com.