The Hattiesburg Police Department is just one of many departments in the Hub City that’s working on their budget proposals for the upcoming fiscal year.
One of the main areas they are expecting to spend a little more will be in the capital request section of the budget.
“Part of that is capital equipment, making sure that our officers have what they need to do their job and do it well,” said Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker.
One of the biggest needs of the department is police cruisers, according to Hattiesburg Police Chief Anthony Parker, which he stated during a city council meeting.
“There are some vehicle purchases that need to be made, and for most departments we’re saying no new vehicles, but for public safety you have to make that exception,” Barker said. “Between police cruisers and K9 units, these are things that our officers need to do their job.”
Currently, one K9 unit is in the shop and the other’s air conditioners out, according to Parker.
“Public safety is our number one priority, and I think the council agrees with that,” said Barker.
New tactical vests, traffic safety vests and bicycles for officers are other items in the request.
“We’re going to try to do everything we can to make sure they have the equipment they need to do their job well and to forge stronger relationships with people in the community,” Barker said.
Another thing they are looking at is recruiting more officers for the department.
“We have to recruit more officers, and you do that by making sure that your pay is competitive,” Barker said. “One thing that we are having conversations about now is some system of professional development that is consistent across the board, that’s predictable from a fiscal standpoint.”
Other items needed by the department range from tactical vests, traffic vests, and additional bicycles for officers.
“We are supportive of their requests for more bicycles because it gets them out in front of the people, we know that we have to improve safety on the Long Leaf Trace, our students are about to come back to Southern Miss, and making sure that we have a presence on the Long Leaf Trace, particularly on the early evening hours is a priority for us,” said Barker.
Barker added that they are working with the University of Southern Mississippi on some local coverage agreements for enhanced patrols.
According to previous budgets, it’s not uncommon for any city department to request capital items in their budget proposals.
“I think every year they have had some capital needs, and some years the city is able to meet those and some they’re not,” Barker said. “We’re going to take the amount of money that we have and try to make sure we meet as many needs as they have to do their jobs well and to forge stronger relationships with the community.”
Barker said more specific items will be ironed out in the Aug. 22nd council meeting, when budget amendments are discussed.
“The city has to come forward and make the capital investment, and so we will be talking to the council about these kinds of things and hopefully we’ll have a budget that is both fiscally responsible but meets the very specific needs of our men and women in uniform,” said Barker.