In the streets: Ride with Ridgeland Police reveal their treatment of people

Like many people in our country today, I am wary of what I have seen the police officers and their treatment of people in the national media. However, I spent a day with the Ridgeland Police Department (RPD) and was amazed at what I saw: a people-first service – not crime, a service that cares and a service that ensures the safety of the city.

I spent the morning with Sergeant Sara Perkins. She began her journey to become a police officer when she was recruited to be a dispatcher at the university. Perkins quickly realized her dream of joining the police, and Ridgeland Chief John Neal gave the 20-year-old a chance. Now in the force for 10 years, Perkins leads the day shift as a sergeant.

While Perkins and I were talking about his trip, a call went over the radio and sent us running down the lanes of Ridgeland to a domestic violence appeal. Perkins said this was a house the RPD visited often, and the two people named as involved could make it a “bad situation.” We met the suspect head-on on a narrow road. Perkins got out of the car as he did too. Without backup and a hostile suspect, I saw the sergeant reaching out to him with empathy and respect. “Hey man, are you okay?” Perkins asked like the first thing to come out of his mouth.

I have seen her deal with the person first and not jump straight into crime. She separated the two men involved in the domestic violence appeal after bringing the suspect home. She listened, she understood, and she kept the peace while waiting for reinforcements of her own accord. The man was arrested – reinforcements arrived, he was handcuffed and he was charged with his crime. But RPD took care of the person first.

Perkins joined me in the car after the suspect was kicked out. She told me about the importance of knowing the community and its residents. Knowing the suspect gave him the knowledge of guns upstairs to keep him away from him, and that he became hostile when hit. In the car, she spoke empathetically about the suspect and the reasons for his crime – never speaking judgmentally.

Perkins spoke about the dire police situation in our country – a situation where black lives are lost and the wrong people wear badges. She said it’s a real problem, and it stems from the hiring of everyone and the lack of training. With a nationwide police shortage, departments find themselves hiring anyone willing to become a police officer, which Perkins says opens the door for people who should never have badges. She said these officers don’t beat people mindlessly out of defense or blind rage for disrespect, which would never be acceptable on its own, but because they left with bad intentions – something that they never allow in their department.

At any sign of bad intentions or lack of care for people, this policeman is fired from the DPR. Perkins told the story of an officer who joined the force at the same time as her and did not last more than a week. His first day in the car with a training officer, he started calling black people an inexcusable word in the car with his fellow officer. He was gone that day.

Perkins said this also relates to the training Ridgeland gives to its officers, which is much needed. They are by the book and take it seriously. Anyone who does not share this value has no place in their policy.

That same afternoon, I joined Officer Alonzo Jones in his police car. We patrolled its neighborhood around the Northpark Mall and discussed its history. He had a brilliant career in medical research, but decided three years ago that his true calling was to do his civic duty and become a police officer, even though he was taking a cut in his pay.

Throughout our afternoon I saw Jones treating everyone with respect, no matter who they were. When I asked him what his favorite part of the police was, he told me he led the funeral processions. He said that maybe it was a strange response, but in doing so he was able to pay tribute to the deceased and his family. It had never occurred to me that this part of being a police officer would be so important to them, and I thought it said a lot about who Jones is as a person and officer in the service of his community.

During our afternoon, Jones performed what were supposed to be routine roadside checks, which turned out to be less routine. The first vehicle contained a mother and two young children in the back seat. The driver did not have her driver’s license or insurance card and, after obtaining information to locate her license, Jones discovered that she had an arrest warrant against her for being absent from court. Jones granted her pardon because she had her children with her and, instead of bringing her to the station, took her information and gave her a date when she was due to go to court or he would have to come and find her. In a scenario where he could easily and legally have made it not be a big day for her and her children, Jones made the family joke and laugh, making everyone feel at ease.

Minutes later Jones had another car joking that it was the last of four cars to pass the red light and, as a caboose, he was picked to be pulled over. The truck contained two men, and while the driver said he made a living as a truck driver, he only had an ID card – not a driver’s license – and an insurance card expired. When the driver’s name appeared in the system, it came with a warrant from Jackson’s police for domestic assault. Jones called for reinforcements in case the truck attempted to flee the scene and remained calm so as not to alert the driver. Jones asked the man to get out of his vehicle and placed him under arrest – while treating him with care and respect. He made sure the individual was okay with the friend in the car driving his truck home, took his phone and wallet out of the car to take them with us and drove him to the police station. police. A domestic assault suspect arrested because of a traffic stop at red lights.

This would not be possible in all states. Jones shared the importance of being able to stop a car for an off taillight or other minor incidents due to arrests like this being made. For Jones, he said if it all goes together with a driver’s license and insurance, he won’t write a ticket. But often these routine roadside checks end up not being routine and take a dangerous individual off the streets.

All day long, I watched Ridgeland officers act with empathy, respect and care for their community and its residents, no matter who the individual was or what he or she had done. I was proud that these were the people who protected Ridgeland. I felt safe in their hands and knew they cared about the safety of every resident. I have no doubts that we will only see good things from this police department, and they will continue to make Ridgeland one of the safest towns in Mississippi while doing it the right way. Thanks for letting me spend the day with you, RPD. I am encouraged by what I saw of a day with your officers.


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