Meridian, Miss. The City of Meridian presented it's first annual "National Night Out" Tuesday evening. In past years, Lauderdale County has presented the event that is usually hosted in August in communities nationwide. Meridian's Police Chief took the opportunity to announce some changes in the way his police force operates.
Chief James Lee told the crowd, young and old, that it's time to come together together to make our community safe. Lee promoted the "See Something, Say Something" initiative, that should be ready to roll next week, both on landlines and mobile phones. It's a tool residents can use to report what they see to police without fear of being tracked. Lee also announced a change in the way his officers patrol the community, one he thinks will be more effective, "We're going from 12 hours to 8 hours," explained Lee. "All we're doing is assigning police officers to specific areas in the city. We're hoping to increase the response time our officers have. I want to get that down to 7 or 8 minutes, no more than that, before a policemen is pulling up at your door. I want a policeman to actually stay where we put him at, and patrol your neighborhood."
The new chief has been a target of criticism in recent days, from within his force, but he has the full support of his boss, Mayor Percy Bland. (Reporter) "You chose James Lee as your police chief. Are you pleased with his performance so far?" Mayor Bland responded, "We've been in office 90 days, Deana, we're solving a lot of these crimes quickly." He continued, "We're doing some strategic things on the streets. That's under James Lee, Chief Lee's supervision. I'm proud of that."
It was the Mayor's wife, Deidre, who partnered with the City's Cultural Affairs Coordinator Casey Null to organize the event, one that was educational and fun. She says next time she wants to bring it even closer to Meridian residents. "I would like to bring it to each ward and to the neighborhoods," said Mrs. Bland. "And have the City Council and our Mayor travel to each of those wards so they can speak with the communities. "