A total of 30 Jackson Police Department officers are assigned to Precinct Four, which covers northeast Jackson.
That’s according to information The Northside Sun received from the city of Jackson in an open records request.
One officer works in each of Precinct Four’s 10 beats during the department’s three shifts, provided no one calls in sick, is on vacation or otherwise can’t be there.
Precinct Four extends from East County Line Road south to Fortification Street and from the Pearl River west to the railroad tracks along North State Street.
Less than two years ago, the number of Precinct Four officers was not quite double the current number of officers.
Precinct Four had about 52 officers in April 2020, according to an April 3, 2020 Northside Sun interview with then Precinct Four JPD Commander Tyrone Buckley. He is now deputy chief of JPD.
When asked by then Northside Sun Staff Writer Anthony Warren, “How many officers would you like to have?” Buckley responded:
“I would like to have an officer on every corner. I remember (Precinct Four) Cmdr. (Keith) Freeman used to say that he needed 75 officers. To give you a number I’m comfortable with, would require more research. I’m still learning about the precinct. To give an adequate number, I would have to look at a needs assessment of the area, which we’re currently in the process of conducting.”
Between 2015 and 2018, the number of officers assigned to Precinct Four also fell.
According to a March 1, 2018, Northside Sun story with the headline “Jackson Crime Drops More than 25 Percent in 2017,” Precinct Four at that time had about 56 sworn officers, down from more than 70 in 2015.
JPD currently has 285 sworn officers out of a total of 380 employees, according to records received from the records request.
“That’s 110 officers short of where it should be,” said Ashby Foote, who represents Ward 1 on the Jackson city council. “It should be around 400. That’s where it should be to provide the level of police protection with beats fully staffed around the clock.”
The Ridgeland Police Department, which has less area to patrol than JPD, has an allocation for 72 sworn police officers but just 66 sworn officers are on the job due to coronavirus adjustments and the fiscal year 2022 budget, said John Neal, chief of the Ridgeland Police Department.
The decrease in funded positions does not affect the number of officers on the streets, he said, noting that several support “specialty” positions in the warrants, traffic and other divisions have not been filled because those would need to be staff from the patrol division.
The Ridgeland Police Department is also hiring officers.
Thirty-nine police officers patrol their beats throughout the city of Jackson from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m., provided no one calls in sick, takes vacation or fails to show up for work, according to information received from the records request.
Forty-two police officers are on their beats throughout the city from 6 a.m. until 2 p.m. and 41 are on their beats from 2-10 p.m., provided no one calls in sick, takes vacation or doesn’t show up for work.
JPD provided the number of officers assigned to each of the four police precincts for the Alpha Shift (6 a.m. until 2 p.m.), the Bravo Shift (2-10 p.m.) and the Charlie Shift (10 p.m. until 6 a.m.) in response to the Sun’s records request.
Precinct One has 10 beats and a total of 21 officers; Precinct Two, 13 beats and 38 officers; Precinct Three, 11 beats and 33 officers; and Precinct Four, 10 beats and 30 officers.
Foote said he’s encouraged that JPD received a $504,310 award from the Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Hiring Program. “It’s money we can put to work to make Jackson safer,” he said.
The Department of Justice announced on Nov. 18 that the COPS Hiring Program awarded $139 million in new funding to 183 police departments across the nation, including $504,310 to JPD. The funding to JPD is to be used to hire additional police officers.
Ashley H. McLaughlin, interim communications director for the city of Jackson, said the award will cover five police officers.
The city council must match 25 percent of the award, she said. With the match, JPD will have almost $700,000 for hiring.
No date has been provided for when the funds will be received, McLaughlin said.
In October 2020, Foote reached out to then U.S. Attorney General William Barr requesting assistance to deal with the rise in crime in Jackson.
“I heard back from them and they said, ‘We can’t do anything with the program where we send in assistance in terms of federal officers to supplement local law enforcement but we encourage you to reach out to the COPS Program,’” Foote said.
Foote said he encouraged JPD Chief James Davis and Juan Gray, grant writer for JPD, to apply for the program.
Five graduates completed JPD’s training academy on Nov. 19. Another class is set to begin on Dec. 12.
Hiring recruits who have completed a police academy is good, but it hardly makes a dent in increasing the number of officers, Foote said.
Like many cities across the country, Jackson has seen crime and one-on-one violence increase, a phenomenon blamed on the global coronavirus pandemic, juveniles living in homes without adults and not enough police presence.
NOTE: Northside Sun Staff Writer Olivia Mars contributed to this story.