COLUMBIA, MS (WDAM) - After being on the job nearly three months, Columbia Police Chief Michael Kelly hosted his first open house. Residents gathered at the police department to meet Kelly and several members of his staff on Thursday.
"What we wanted to do was provide an opportunity for the public to come meet us in our house," Kelly said. "So many times, when we go to the public's house, it's under a crisis or some sort of circumstance that's not a comfortable circumstance. And we want to get to know people, so when they call on us and we show up--- they already have a name and a face and then they feel like they can trust that person is there to help them."
Upon arrival, attendees were asked to sign a guest book and welcomed with various refreshments. While some waited to speak with Kelly, patrons mingled with each other. Kelly says he hopes community-oriented events like the open house help foster a healthy relationship with the community and the Columbia Police Department. He also wants residents to open their houses up to law enforcement.
"We'll bring all of our people there and meet everybody on your street," said Kelly. "We want to connect the police officers with the public, so we build a relationship."
Kelly was appointed police chief on March 12th after the current police chief, Mike Cooper, resigned. Prior to his promotion, he served as the department's code enforcement officer for less than a year. He plans to host open houses regularly in conjunction with other community-related events around the city.
"We believe that if we can engage the community in helping us do our job--- we reduce crime, we build relationships (and) Columbia is a much better, safer place to live and raise a family," he said.