Gulfport working to bridge gap between community and law enforcement

Gulfport working to bridge gap between community and law enforcement

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - NAACP President Gary Fredricks and Gulfport Police Chief Leonard Papania began engaging in conversations more than a month ago about what they can do to address the issues in Gulfport. They're currently working to smooth out relations between Gulfport's citizens and law enforcement officers to keep crime down.

After Chief Papania expressed his concern about community involvement when it comes to crime, he said he's been getting great responses from the citizens of Gulfport. On the forefront of getting the community more involved is the Gulfport chapter of the NAACP.

"That's what we're here for, that's what the NAACP is here for. We want to make sure our country and everybody are running on a smooth justice system," attorney Theressia Lyons said.

Chief Papania said after meeting with Gulfport residents, he was happy to know that many are on board with doing their part in protecting the community and the people in it.

"The best part was they wanted to know what they as citizens can do to help," Chief Papania said. "We've got to realize, everything is not a police solution. Certainly addressing crime is the role of our police department, but those things that lead up to crime, that's a community issue."

When talking about problem solving, both Chief Papania and Lyons agreed it's a great opportunity for citizens of Gulfport to take part in the solution.

"We need to keep our community stable, is the biggest thing we want to do. So we wanted to get people out to be able to address issues with the chief and he answered all of our questions. And people left with the sense of 'okay, he's on our side' as opposed to 'it's us against them,'" Lyons said.

"On the short term, we'll continue our communications and then on our side, I want to be a big nuisance to the criminals in Gulfport. I want to be a pain to them. When we can be more of a nuisance to them than they are our citizens, we have met success and that's what I intend on doing," Chief Papania said.

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