Gulfport's police chief to be MADD advocate after retirement - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Gulfport's police chief to be MADD advocate after retirement

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GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

Whoever ultimately becomes the new police chief in Gulfport is expected to have a fairly smooth transition thanks to the foundation set by the outgoing chief. A recent independent study commissioned by the city found that under Chief Alan Weatherford's leadership, the Gulfport Police Department has established itself as one of the more cutting edge police agencies in the Gulf region.

The report said, "The new chief will have the advantage of well established policies, procedures, and technological systems."

For 29 years, Chief Weatherford has worn a badge. He said he's accomplished everything he set out to in his seven years as chief, thanks to a lot of help along the way.

"You couldn't do this job without community support," said Chief Weatherford.

Tragedy struck the Weatherford family in March 2011 when his daughter, 29-year-old  DeAnna Tucker, was struck and killed by a drunk driver. Tucker had just left a bridal shop after trying on her wedding dress. While Weatherford said he hasn't decided what he will do professionally after retirement, but he will volunteer as an advocate for Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

"I do want to be a voice for DeAnna. To make a difference so another family doesn't have to go through what we have went through," Chief Weatherford said. "I don't want to take the victim's status here any longer. I'm a survivor. We're going to move forward, but we are going to be a voice for all victims of impaired driving."

"It's a terrible, terrible situation out there that we're facing and now, today, I look at victims and the tragedies, I look at it a lot differently."

Also different is how the chief sees the interaction between officers and victims' families.

"First responders, they put this shield up to deal with tragedy and not show the emotion side of it. But today, I see it a lot differently. It's okay to show emotion," Chief Weatherford said. "It's okay to sit down with a family who may have had a family member die of a violent crime. Sit down and talk to them. I find myself going in that area many, many times where I probably wouldn't have done it in the past."

He said, "If there is anything positive out of that it's trying to help someone else go through what we've been through."

Chief Weatherford said his leadership style is to focus on building relationships and trust between the police and the community.

"You build that trust. You don't build it over night. You build that through relationships. Through your community partnerships. Through your community watch meetings," he said. "We have some great block captains here in the city of Gulfport. They feed us information through their contacts in the neighborhood and that has made a difference. So you build that trust and then you continue to build on it."

Chief Weatherford said, "If we are wrong on something, I'm a firm believer just accept it and admit that you are wrong and move on."

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