Law Enforcement Honored

One by one, the Meridian Exchange Club honored the area's top cops.

"We understand that it's an important job and it's often an under appreciated job. So, we look forward to this event every year," says Exchange Club president Duffee Williams.

From the police to Highway Patrol, law enforcement officials say there's much more when you look behind the badge.

"A lot of people don't understand how much it takes to be a law enforcement officer," says Deputy of the Year honoree Charles F. Pickett with the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department.

"Law enforcement are stereotyped that we just are out there writing tickets and stuff but that isn't at all what we do. We try to deter people from committing violations and stuff," says Officer of the Year honoree Chris Read with the Meridian Police Department.

"It's important to have support from the community because when they officers make arrests, they carry these people to court and if the jury doesn't support them they fell, 'What's the use?' says Trooper of the Year honoree Master Sergeant David Blakeney.

"They don't do the job for the money," says Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood who was the guest speaker for the event. "An event like this is wonderful for citizens to realize what they go through when they walk up to a car at night and don't know who's inside and they've got children at home to worry about and make low pay!"

To help make officers jobs easier, Hood says he's working with the University of Southern Mississippi on developing a program, which would train DNA specialists. If all goes well he says these students would get tuition breaks if they agree to work in the state for a period of time after graduation.

Other measures that Hood is now working on include making it a felony to flee from an officer and stiffening the penalty for committing a crime with a firearm. All items he says will likely be addressed by state lawmakers during this legislative session.