BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - The new Bay St. Louis interim police chief is a law enforcement veteran who just wants to bring guidance to what he calls an already tremendous police department.
Darren Freeman is the former director of internal affairs for Mississippi Highway Patrol. He brings 23 years of law enforcement experience to Bay St. Louis.
"I believe it's a calling. I was actually excited to get an opportunity to even interview for it. I was honored that the mayor and city council confirmed my appointment and just to be here and be a part of this city and watch it grow. There's great things in store for the City of Bay St. Louis," said Freeman.
Mayor Les Fillingame led the search for a new police chief after the suicide of former chief Mike DeNardo. Fillingame calls Freeman the player's coach the department needs right now.
"I mean that very sincerely. He's going to be the coach of the guys that can really relate to what they are, to what they are, where they're going, their career motivation, and their own skill set," said Fillingame.
At a second workshop led by city leaders Tuesday night, the public made it very clear they were against dissolving the police department and turning control over to the Hancock County Sheriff's Office. Freeman's appointment may bring relief to residents that the department is safe for now.
"When I was at the public meeting last night, I was overwhelmed by the support of the community. In this day and age in law enforcement, you have to have community support. I'm a firm believer in community policing," said Freeman.
The department is still under federal investigation since the death of DeNardo. That, coupled with talks of dissolving the department, have brought uncertainty to the officers. That's another reason why Freeman is ready to step in and begin serving.
"They do not need that in the back of their mind, not knowing who their supervisors going to be or whether or not they're going to have a job. I think this dispels that rumor and allows them to focus on the more important issues of staying alive and protecting the citizens of this city," said Freeman.
Freeman will still be considered interim chief until June. That's when elections take place, and the new city council can choose to ratify his appointment.