Local law enforcement officials – Fire Chief Ruben Brown and Police Chief Marcus Turner – were guest speakers at the Greenville Rotary Club’s regular meeting on Thursday.
Rotarians first heard from Brown because he chose to “warm up” the audience for his counterpart.
The former U.S. Navy serviceman highlighted some of the key achievements and initiatives of the Greenville Fire Department since his unanimous appointment by mayor and city council in 2013 after 19 years of dedicated service.
What preceded these highlights was Brown’s personal testimony of his upbringing and what he overcame after losing his mother to breast cancer at the age of 2 coupled with the lack of his father.
Earning the National Defense Service and Southwest Asia Service medals during his Navy career and, in 2019, becoming the first black firefighter to be elected president of the Mississippi Fire Chiefs Association are revealing. Brown’s expectations of his 81 staff.
With this, Brown noted a personal philosophy of his own, “It’s not about how you start, but how you end.”
“We started a fire and life safety festival over eight years ago and it’s a festival we have pretty much every October in Stein Mart Square,” Brown said. “It’s a community event and the number one goal is really to reduce and eliminate fire deaths to raise awareness and educate, but also to really bring the community together. ”
This year, the fire department launched its first-ever breast cancer awareness program to highlight the disease and other cancers – a program Brown holds dear due to his own experience of losing his mother. because of breast cancer.
He spoke about the Fire Department’s Kids Academy which was set up six years ago and the impact it aims to have on young people in the community.
“It’s a week-long program for kids around 7 to 15 years old where we usually take them over the summer to teach them about fire safety, poison safety, CPR, bike safety and child safety. people, ”Brown explained.
Other community engagement efforts led by the GFD are an annual safety poster art competition for school-aged children, the 9/11 Stair Climb at Delta Towers in honor of men and women who lost their lives that day and a firefighter ball where “Firefighter of the Year” and other honors are awarded to members of the department.
Most recently, the department hosted the Association of Fire Chiefs Mid-Winter 2021 conference which was held December 7-10 at Harlow’s Casino.
More than a decade had passed since the conference was held in Greenville.
One of the most notable highlights was the Fire Department’s $ 900,000 award under FEMA’s Firefighter Assistance Grant (AFG) program, which enabled the acquisition of a 107 inch Pierce Ladder fire truck.
“Our number one goal is to reduce fire deaths and injuries,” Brown said, adding that all the department needed was “a few good men and women,” as filling the openings has been one. of its greatest challenges.
Lightly assuring Rotarians that he would not preach a sermon, as pastor of Old Jerusalem in Greenville, Turner used Proverbs 29:18 as a point of reference when he spoke about GPD’s vision – one of the “four very important things” in the matter. to the success of GPD.
Scripture says in part: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”
After the vision, according to Turner, are the mission, execution and results.
“The thing I noticed the most that the Greenville Police Department hasn’t had in a long time is the vision,” Turner said. “The vision is very important… everything is the result of the vision, whether you have it or someone has it for you. If you have no vision, you wander aimlessly.
No target can be hit if there is no goal and Turner’s goal is to ensure that GPD truly delivers on its commitment to crime prevention, protection of life and property, preservation of peace and public order and to provide services of the highest standard to the community.
“We aim to improve ourselves in the area of transparency and we aim to restore trust between law enforcement and the citizens of Greenville,” said Turner.
He highlighted how Chief Brown and the fire department have been a great role model in demonstrating community service – something he believes can go a long way in rebuilding trust between the police service and citizens.
Turner went on to share some of the crucial stats based on the time before his appointment and the time since.
From January to September 2021, burglaries totaled 280, an average of 31 per month, meaning that every day someone was broken into, Turner noted.
In addition, the city experienced an average of two thefts per month and a total of 58 aggravated assault cases.
“We are now at a homicide record, the highest in Greenville history with 27 homicides,” Turner said, averaging three per month.
He continued: “Since October, burglaries have decreased (80 burglaries from October to December) and the thefts have barely decreased.
Turner also noted that during this period in which three homicides took place, two of them occurred in a single incident.
“We have doubled the number of arrests for felony because we disseminate information and the community helps us,” he said.
From January 2021 to September 2021, GPD made an average of 14 criminal arrests per month.
From October 2021 to December 2021, GPD made an average of 36 criminal arrests per month as well as 320 citations compared to an average of 75 from January to September.
Turner pointed to the recent investment in the Tasers.
“Why are we operating in the 21st century without weapons that must be used for law enforcement, not just for your safety but for ours,” he asked rhetorically. “Besides getting hold of you to initiate an arrest, there is no tool currently in use by the police department other than a firearm. ”
Even the mace was not available to officers, Turner said.
He took note of the salary increase as well as the 15 new patrol cars approved by the city council during its last budget session which allows greater visibility in the streets.
“We are trying to implement a program where the agents will have their own car to take away, which gives them a sense of worth and pride and it prevents us from paying a high maintenance bill on the cars,” he said. -he explains. “We are trying to reduce this budget so that we can use some of the funds that we would normally spend on repairing cars for more increases.”
While the increases have been a big help, Turner said in essence that GPD is still at a somewhat disadvantage when it comes to agent retention.
“We thank God for that, but it’s still not enough – not when you have places like Olive Branch and Southhaven that are offering as much as $ 55,000 to $ 60,000 a year, and that’s for a rookie cop. “, did he declare.
Despite this, Turner and Deputy Chief Kenneth Redfield are committed to taking GPD in a positive direction and carrying out the mission given to them.