Katrina displaced state troopers move into new headquarters

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - By Danielle Thomas – bio | email

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - After five years, state troopers say they finally feel like they can close the door on Hurricane Katrina. The storm forced the Mississippi Highway Patrol out of its offices on Biloxi's Back Bay. Now Troop K has finally moved into the new public safety complex in Harrison County and law enforcement officials expect the facilities to make their job easier.

State troopers say a spacious dispatch room is among the perks of their new 19,000 square foot command center.

"Morale. Morale. Morale. Just the building itself has boost morale," said Capt. Jimmy O'Banner. "Not only that but we had been working out of a 1,700 square foot double wide trailer and during that time it was kind of difficult."

A second building in the complex houses the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics and the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation. MBI agents say it's nice to again have their own labs and meeting rooms.

Capt. David Murtagh said, "It gives our agents an opportunity that they don't have to do interviews and interrogations at other agencies. We have the facilities now to be able to do that in house."

From the large waiting room for people needing driver's licenses to the Highway 67 location, troopers say the public safety complex was designed with the needs of the six southernmost counties in mind.

"This facility was definitely built to better serve the public," said Cpl. Johnny Poulos. "Being in FEMA trailers for five years, we can finally close the door on Katrina."

Capt. O'Banner said being in one location will make for better communication.

"It brought us back close. We were spread out. We had our investigative department which was down at the jail. You had driver's license at another place."

Officials say the state crime lab which was also damaged in Katrina is expected to move into a third building in the public safety complex. That building will include a morgue.

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