It is more difficult now to be a police officer than ever before. The mission of the Oxford Police Department is to serve our community with wisdom and compassion, and to create a safe and connected community. As your Mayor, I can tell you that our police officers are charged with being public servants every single day with this mission in mind.
The challenges both on a local and national level over the past two years have allowed us to evaluate every policy and procedure of the Oxford Police Department. It has certainly made us realize that we have not communicated all that our department is doing to serve our community. In June 2020, the #8cantwait campaign was prominent. Chief McCutchen and I discussed this and found that the Oxford Police Department had – for many years – adopted the practices and policies recommended by this campaign. To see a full address of how our policies align with the #8cantwait campaign, please view: https://www.hottytoddy.com/2020/06/13/opd-chief-mccutchen-addresses-police-interaction-training-mission-2/
My administration has demanded transparency, and even instituted a Commission on Police Transparency. Ten citizens of Oxford have been appointed to represent voices from across our community. The idea to form this commission came during a Zoom meeting between community members, city officials and heads of local law enforcement agencies that was hosted by Conversations for Change – a local community group formed to promote community conversations on social matters including racial injustice and police brutality. This Commission on Police Transparency has been meeting monthly since October. The Commission is provided an inside look at the mission and policies of the Oxford Police Department, and will ride with officers during their shift, participate in live training demonstrations, and have open conversations. Our hope is that Commission members will meet with citizens in their circles of influence and bring back concerns and issues that need to be addressed. We also believe these members will be able to speak from experience and assist people in understanding the stresses and strains the Oxford Police Department deals with on a daily basis.
In 2017 under my administration, the Oxford Police Department established a Safe Site in front of Visit Oxford. Uniformed officers are there Wednesday through Saturday evenings assisting any patrons that feel unsafe, need assistance in finding a ride home, would like to be escorted to their vehicle, or need police assistance. This Safe Site has become a great way for Oxford Police Officers to meet and build relationships with our student population. Officers and residents can often be seen playing corn hole or laughing and talking at this site every evening.
The Oxford Police Department has held events to interact with all ages and build relationships and trust. These events have included an Annual Fun Day allowing Oxonians to interact with officers, Camp COPS, Annual Haunted House, and Coffee with a Cop at local restaurants. Officers have also begun doing bike patrols in neighborhoods to better interact with citizens.
The Oxford Police Department has gone through an extensive assessment process to earn national accreditation status by the Commission on Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA). CALEA accreditation is considered the gold standard in public safety. Only nine law enforcement agencies in Mississippi have received this accreditation honor. This should give the citizens of our community a sense of security that the Oxford Police Department is working hard to do it right, and that the City of Oxford is working to be transparent.
The Oxford Police Department has established key partnerships that assist in serving our citizens with domestic violence and mental health issues. OPD has completed a pledge called the One Mind Campaign which focuses on improving their response to those living with mental illness in our community. In doing so, OPD has partnered with Communicare and pledged to implement practices to improve the outcome of interactions between police officers and people in crisis or impacted by mental illness. This includes a 40-hour Crisis Intervention Curriculum which has improved the way we respond to situations that require communicative strategies, de-escalation and crisis intervention.
It is our goal to build relationships within the community and to be as transparent with our citizens as possible. We will continue to find ways to connect and serve.