Officer Mark Hodges is central vice president of the Mississippi Law Enforcement Officers’ Association (MLEOA). MLEOA is a nonprofit organization that provides training free-of-charge to law enforcement agencies across the state. Hodges, who has been with the Jackson Police Department (JPD) for 18 years, recently discussed the association with Sun Senior Staff Writer Anthony Warren.
So, tell me about the association.
“MLEOA is made up of over 1,500 members across the state of Mississippi. We are an association that provides police officers with the training – complementary training that their agencies could normally not afford. What we’ve experienced across the state is that we have smaller agencies that cannot afford to send their officers to training (because of lack of manpower or lack of funds.”
What kind of training do you provide?
“One is police motorcycle training, which is my area of expertise. I’m a national police motorcycle instructor. Not only do I teach it for the Jackson Police Department, but I teach it nationwide and with agencies that are just starting a motor unit. We also provide K-9 training for officers throughout the state. We just recently implemented mounted training – mounted patrols. That’s where we train officers on crowd control, how to control their horses in crowded situations, such as parades and other events outside where (agencies) need to have mounted patrols. We also provide social media training, Internet investigations, all types of trainings.
“We’re constantly searching to see how we can better improve our program and are in collaboration with the (state) attorney general’s office. They provide us with a training fund, which allows us to put on these programs.
“Every year, we also have a summer conference where we bring these training areas together. We have over 100 officers from the states of Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana, who take part.”
What is the association’s budget?
“We spend around $52,000 to $55,000 on the conference. We supply complimentary accommodations, do banquets, (and host) award ceremonies. Not only that, we do an officer of year the award, we do scholarships for graduating students. There are at least three students each year who receive $1,000 for college.”
Why did MLEOA begin offering mounted training?
“It started with a conversation with an officer from the Oxford Police Department. He did a great job in putting that training together. We had an outside instructor come in to assist … we saw an opportunity to implement the training, and for the first time in June, we were successful in that. We had 15 (representatives from) mounted patrol units in the state and from the Mobile and New Orleans police departments.”
I didn’t know there were that many mounted units in the state.
“You can count on one hand the agencies in Mississippi. I want to say Oxford, Hinds County, Rankin County, JPD, Gulfport – not very many that have horses.”
How did you get involved with MLEOA?
“I started out taking advantage of the complimentary training. I started as a participant and once I enhanced my training and went on to be an instructor, the board saw fit to nominate me as a board member. Once I was nominated, I was voted in. It’s been a great experience because I have a say so and a vote on, number one, the budget and, number two, how we add training and figure out ways to enhance training for officers throughout the state. I feel confident that every board member is passionate about law enforcement, and you have officers from all different backgrounds that make up the board.”
Is there any new training you believe needs to be added?
“We’re always reaching out. Each year when we have a conference, we encourage attendees to e-mail us, inbox us, and let us know what we need to add to enhance their training, or if there is anything we need to take away. We like to get a survey of how officers enjoy the training. We get that verbally.”
Are there any areas where departments in the state are lacking?
“There are agencies that lack in many areas – that’s why we spread it out. We understand social media is a big thing now. You have a lot of social media crimes taking place. One of the most relevant ones today is Internet investigation or social media investigation. This past summer, that’s what we provided to officers who took part (in the conference.)”
How much would some of this training cost a department if it had to pay for it out-of-pocket?
“Say for example, the officers that attend this motor school here, if they had gone to Northwestern (University), which is where most of them go, it would have cost $1,495 plus accommodations.”
Is that the amount per student?
“Yes, and we provide it at no cost to the agency. It’s very cost effective.”
You mention social media training and the like. With all of the changes in technology, especially with more people using smart phones to record police in the line of duty, is it getting harder for police to do their work?
“No, I wouldn’t say that it makes it difficult for them to do their jobs. It may be a distraction in some cases, but most police officers try to be truthful in how they enforce the law and how they police. It really doesn’t matter if you have a camera on them.
“Typically, officers have body cams or traffic cameras in their cars to record (them) and make sure they’re following guidelines, or if they have to pull the video for court purposes or evidence. The technology world we’re living in now almost forces you to be in line with what you’re supposed to be doing as a law enforcement officer.”