We had the opportunity to experience firsthand what a Meridian police officer faces during your average patrol through a ride-along, and it's not an easy job.
"Literally, every day when they come to work, they don't know if this is their last day or not," Lt. John Griffith says.
It's a tough job made tougher by the fact that the MPD is overworked and undermanned: currently 10 to 15 officers shy of the 108 it's allotted.
"Where we are shorthanded, our guys are running calls so hard and so fast all night, back after back after back, they don't really have time to get in that community or get in that quad and ride around and look for those things out of the norm," Lt. Griffith explains.
Chief James Lee is asking the City Council to look at increasing those numbers from 108 to at least 120 officers to saturate the city.
And having just a few more of those officers can make a huge difference when it comes to curbing crime. The MPD needs that manpower when it comes to patrols like we're on now. Often seeing police on the streets like this can stop crime before it ever starts.
The department boasted 106 officers in December and has dropped back down just in the past few months. Chief Lee says retention is a problem. And he believes raising officer salaries could make a difference in attracting and keeping officers. Starting pay for a meridian police officer is just $24,000 a year.
"Anybody who's watching this would be able to say that's kind of low; $12.50 an hour and you don't know if you're coming home or not. We need to pay police like our life depends on it because it does," Chief Lee says.