By MATT WILLIAMSON
SUMMIT, Miss. (AP) - There's a running joke in Summit: If you
want the police, go to the Shell station.
"If you own a quick store in a small town, the police
department is the best security you can have," Assistant Police
Chief Ken Stockman said.
Summit's dark blue police cars are a familiar sight at the
convenience store that sits on the corner of one of the town's
busiest intersections. It has free coffee for police and a good
view of potential speeders and people who run stop signs.
And save for an 18-by-18-foot corner office in the back of Town
Hall, there's no other place for police to be when they're not
answering calls or on patrol.
Summit officials say a new police station is long overdue.
They're applying for a $223,875 in USDA Rural Development grant
funding to build one. If approved, Summit would have to come up
with a $74,625 match, and the town is trying to get that shored up
in the form of a Mississippi Development Authority Small
Officials want to build a new police station on the north side
of Town Hall, on top of what's now a gravel parking lot. Parking
would be moved to the northeast corner of the lot Town Hall
While town officials say Summit's crime is lower per capita
compared to neighboring municipalities - police have filed 1,583
reports, mostly for misdemeanor and drug infractions, plus a couple
of robberies and felony thefts this year - the current arrangement
with the police department still has the potential for volatility.
The biggest reason officials say Summit needs to get its police
force into a building of its own is the fact that Town Hall is open
'round the clock.
"It never shuts down. The police station's always open," Mayor
Percy Robinson said.
Other problems persist.
There's no interview room for suspects, and no place to detain
"This is all we have" in the way of detention, Robinson said,
pointing to a chair next to one of two desks in the office.
Victims and suspects of crimes are often interviewed in the same
office at the same time, making some situations dicier than others,
especially when dealing with domestic violence cases.
"When there's a domestic disturbance and both sides of the
family are here, there's no way we can control it," Robinson said.
And when police do arrest someone, there's nothing to stop the
suspect's family members from barging in and getting belligerent
with officers. Locking up evidence and weapons leaves much to be
When municipal court is held in Town Hall, inmates line the
hallway outside the main board room, which is used for court
proceedings one day a week.
"We're talking about the jailhouse orange, the guys we have to
bring up from (the county jail in) Magnolia," Robinson said.
The knob to the police department's office door is a jury-rigged
nail. Power strips plugged into power strips clog an electrical
outlet and collect dust on a cracked, filthy, decades-old tile
"We have no room," Robinson said. "Can you function in one
room? No. There's no way you can function in one room."
Officials say a new police station will vastly improve public
safety and overall quality of life for both officers and residents.
Blueprints call for an interview room, evidence and weapons
vault, secure glass-encased central office that will be the first
contact visitors have with police personnel, break room for
officers, small detention facility and other features.
"It would get us out of this hole," Stockman said.
Selling Summit as a nice place to live would be a difficult job
if someone walked into Town Hall and noticed the makeshift
headquarters for public safety, he said.
"If you came to live in Summit and I tell you this is the
police department, you'd just laugh," Stockman said.
Information from: Enterprise-Journal,
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)