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Recent Events in Baton Rouge, Dallas Heighten Vigilance For UPD/OPD

Oxford Police Chief Joey East

This week, HottyToddy.com interviewed Oxford Police Chief Joey East and University Police Department Chief Tim Potts to discuss recent national tragedies that occurred in Dallas and Baton Rouge.

HottyToddy.com: Do you have bulletproof vests, and do you wear them at all times?

East:We do have vests. Every officer has a vest, and every officer is required to wear that vest if they go out.

Potts: Officers are required to wear them on normal patrol duties.

HottyToddy.com: Do you have police cameras and body cameras?

East: We do have cameras. Every car is equipped with an in-car camera which automatically comes on with lights. We were one of the earlier departments in the state to order body cameras. We’ve got ones that have been on back-order since last year. They’ve had such a demand for body cameras. They can’t make them fast enough. We still have cameras, they’re not the technology we’ve ordered, but we do have cameras.

Potts: Yes, we’ve worn body cameras for a few years. Car Cameras and personal cameras as well.

HottyToddy.com: Are you more concerned for your officers’ safety today than you were six months ago?

East: With all the rhetoric and the hate that is going on in the world, absolutely we’re concerned about their safety.

Potts: I would be lying if I didn’t say yes. We are more cautious. I went ahead and even though we haven’t experienced violence and even though it’s down time during the summer. We went ahead and doubled our officers up this last week. It’s not out of fear for our officers, it’s a move I took because I felt like it gave the officers a support system in the car.

HottyToddy.com: Are you concerned about the local environment here in Oxford?

East: You never know. I feel like our officers have done a very good job of reaching out to the community and trying to be a part of the community. I think they’ve shown a different side of law enforcement that other departments don’t have the luxury of doing or have done. I think the relationship that we’ve built with the community here in Oxford has helped us. However, it is a college town and we get a lot of people. Just like the Baton Rouge shooting, that gentleman was not from Baton Rouge so you don’t know what’s going on. This weekend we had a candlelight vigil on the square. We don’t know who could have showed up to hurt someone. You’re constantly aware and you just have to be diligent

Potts: We’ve always felt supported and appreciated here on campus and in the community. As I said something to our officers on Sunday when I said that we were going to change things up a bit, for us to think that something that happened in Baton Rouge or Dallas couldn’t happen here would be wrong.

HottyToddy.com: Does a city like the size of Oxford allow you to be more interactive within the community?

East: It has us. I saw the trend OPD was going to. I felt like it was a trend that a lot of departments had fallen into and where that’s where officers aren’t approachable and they’re a reactive department. I didn’t like that. I like that we’re part of a community. You’re going to see me in the grocery store. You’re going to see me anywhere else. I felt like we had to do our part in chasing after the community and being involved with activities, putting on programs. The officers have bought in now, and it really seems to have helped us in our relationships.

HottyToddy.com: How do you go about preparing for a situation that occurred in Baton Rouge or Dallas?

Potts: You train for the worst scenarios and hope that they never happen. Our officers have trained with an active shooter (situation) for years, and we hope we never have to put that into play, but I know if something were to happen our officers would respond.

HottyToddy.com: Do you approach the job any differently today than you did six months ago?

East: No. I just sent something out, being the president of the chief’s association: if anything we can’t let one attack, one terrorist, one person to tear up what we’ve done in our community. We’re not going to treat people any different – if anything we’re going to treat them better than we ever have.

HottyToddy.com: Are you planning on doing calls differently in lieu of Baton Rouge and Dallas?

East: We’re putting in measures that we don’t release to the public, but we are doing things differently.

Hottytoddy.com: How important is it as the UPD to humanize yourselves with students?

Potts: It’s huge. You put the uniform on and for some people it’s going to create a barrier. Ole Miss is an internationally recognized college so we have people from all over the world that have different experiences with the police. It’s very important.

Hottytoddy.com: Do you feel the respect for the law has gone down over the past 15 years?

Potts: I’ve been in it 25 years and the appreciation that the community has shown us over the past few weeks with the tragedies that have taken place we appreciate, but that hasn’t been the norm over the past several years. There seems to be a focus on everything is wrong with the police. We’re not perfect. There’s good doctors. There’s bad doctors. There’s good police officers. There’s bad police officers. We all make decisions. It’s tough. It’s not the same.

Collin Brister is a staff writer for HottyToddy.com. He cna be reached at collin.brister@hottytoddy.com.

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