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JPD looks to break down community barriers, reach more people with new hires

The Jackson Police Department needs almost 30 employees to be considered fully staffed and has raised benefits to help meet that need. 

In the last year, the organization has raised starting pay to $44,346 for starting officers, and introduced sign-on bonuses, along with the educational opportunities, insurance benefits, and other incentives the department already offered. 

Deputy Chief Derick Tisdale and Community Engagement Director Stephanie Graham are two of the people leading the charge for hiring new employees. Tisdale, who served in the United States Military, joined JPD after, and has been promoted to Deputy Chief. He has even completed two degrees, including a Masters of Divinity.

“I absolutely enjoy what I do,” Tisdale said. “And there have been other things that I’ve had an opportunity to explore while here, but at this phase in my life in my career, I consider Jackson to be my congregation. And it’s my belief system that we’re going to make a difference in the city of Jackson.”

To meet the initial requirement of the department, candidates must be a U.S. citizen older than 21, have a valid driver’s license, have a high school diploma or GED, and pass a vision test, physical ability test, interview, and background check. 

There are also opportunities for promotion. 

“One of the things that I tried to achieve is providing an opportunity for everybody, at all levels, to show that you want to be promoted through the ranks,” Tisdale said, “And one of the things is ensuring that everybody, at whatever level they are, has an opportunity to work one to two ranks above their current position.” 

That means challenging officers with different opportunities and tasks, giving each one the opportunity to rise to the challenge. 

More than that, Tisdale is looking for officers who will help build relationships in the community, breaking down long-built walls in disenfranchised communities, and make their force more diverse and welcoming. 

“One of the first things that I learned about a law enforcement agency: you want your law enforcement agency to mimic the community that they serve. So when we look at the diversity of the community, of the citizens of the city of Jackson, we want that same diversity in our police force,” Deputy Chief Derick Tisdale said as the Jackson Police Department is trying to recruit new officers.  

This is an especially-important mission for Stephanie Graham. As she gave elementary school children a tour of the department several weeks ago, she says a child asked if there were any “girls” on the staff. When Graham was able to introduce the child to a female officer, the child’s eyes lit up. 

Tisdale also spoke about Officer Yesenia Cardona, who is fluent in Spanish. Because she has broken the language barrier, she has been able to help women escaping domestic violence. 

“I’ve got feedback of the difference that she has been making, just because of the representation of the Hispanic community,” Tisdale said. “That barrier that may have existed through the years, but they met someone who can communicate with them, and that has made a huge difference.

“We have officers who really have the heart and they want to make a difference in the lives of others. The other part about what we look for at the department, we want people who genuinely want to make a difference. We want them to have the courage to take the step, because it is a very intimidating step to take.  

In all, Tisdale called the role a “challenging” but stable career: one they want the right people to do. And JPD refuses to lower their standards to fill those unfilled positions. 

“It’s absolutely very challenging. When we get called somebody’s not having the best day, right? And so how do you go into that environment? And de-escalate a situation is the answer. We use the term ‘de-escalate’ because most people don’t call the police unless they’re having a bad day,” Tisdale said. “But there’s also this amazing opportunity. Instead of looking at the negative, as an officer for the Jackson Police Department, we have this opportunity to meet people from all walks of life. Can you imagine building a positive relationship with all those people?”

Julia Ewoldt, julia@jacksonpost.news

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