After a week in his new position, Meridian's new police chief spoke to Newscenter 11 about the challenge of leading the department. Chief James Lee made one thing clear to start.
Lee insisted his assistant chiefs be present during the interview, longtime assistant chiefs, James Sharpe, who filled in as acting chief for the last several months, and Buck Roberts. Both men are veterans of the MPD.
Lee says he has learned no one does it on his own, and one thing that's going to be different this time is emphasizing the leadership team.
"They had competent leadership before I got here," said Lee. "I'm just going to let them do what they do. This is a management team. I know in years past, in the previous administrations, the previous chiefs, they were the number one guy, the guy who called all the shots. This system doesn't work like that. This is a team concept. And those guys sitting here before you are qualified to be on that team, and we're going to work together."
And that recurring theme continues as he talks about a plan, a vision, for the department:
"It's not Jim Lee's plan. It's our plan. And our plan for this city is to work as a community," said Lee. "I am an advocate of community policing. I love it. I think it's a great program."
Lee acknowledges the challenge of convincing community members to talk to the police, to tell them what they know. He calls it 'see something, say something.' He said he hopes the communication lines will be fully open between community members and police. When victims don't want to press charges against their attacker, usually from fear, Lee says that's where his officers will step in.
"And if they don't press charges, the police, the officer, can press charges," said Lee. "Sometimes people are a little reluctant because they think there are going to be reprisals. I don't want to convince someone to do the right thing. I really want them to do the right thing. If they don't, who are they going to rob next "
In Part 2, Lee talks about one of the first things he'll ask the mayor and city council for in the department's fight against crime.