Grand Jury recommends changes for Hancock Co. Sheriff's Dept.

By Al Showers - bio | email

HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - The Grand Jury's four page report lists eight recommendations it believes could make the wheels of justice turn more efficiently in Hancock County. They include better surveillance equipment for undercover drug investigations. The Grand Jury found in some cases they couldn't hear or see the video and audio clearly.

"We hit about 90 percent audio on our undercover drug operations, and probably 50 percent on audio and video," Sheriff Steve Garber said. "We've been in the middle of drug operations that's gone on for two or three hours when we thought we'd be there for 30 minutes. Even batteries in our equipment have gone out."

Sheriff Garber said his Narcotics Division recently got some new surveillance equipment, but warns that even the best of undercover technology isn't foolproof.

"It would be like us asking a drug dealer if he'd do a mic check for us, or if he'd pose for the camera to make sure we're getting his good side."

The Grand Jury said cameras in every patrol car could help them with DUI cases. The Sheriff said all of his department's 30 patrol cars are equipped with cameras.

"I would imagine, at any given time, there are one or two cameras that we have problems with when we're on rough roads. It's electronic equipment and we've had problems."

Grand Jury members also suggest a checks and balances system for the paperwork involved in each case before it's presented to them. That's something the Sheriff said is already being done.

"Each case we turn into the Grand Jury, whether it be a DUI narcotics or criminal investigation, we actually have a DA case file. And it's an inventory, basically a check sheet. We have to check every item that we have. If we turn in a DA file that's incomplete, the assistant District Attorney will send that case file back. I don't care what kind of department you run, there's always room for improvement. We look here every day on how we can improve the services for the taxpayers of this county."

The grand jury also recommended building a new jail. Hurricane Katrina damaged the county jail beyond repair. Since then, Hancock County inmates have been housed at the Pearl River County Jail.

Sheriff Garber said the blueprints for a new jail have been finalized and that the process is moving forward.

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