Biloxi Police Plan Improvements

The Biloxi Police Department wants to spend more than 407 thousand dollars for public safety improvements.

If the city council agrees, the money will be used to buy 18 new police cars, a bomb sniffing police dog and a new prisoner transport van.

Veteran police officers remember the days, not long ago, when the City of Biloxi had very little money to spend on public safety or anything else.

But things are different today.

Since the arrival of dockside gambling, the city has a healthy cash flow and a mayor who's made public safety spending a top priority.

The Biloxi police department wants to buy 18 new patrol cars to upgrade its fleet. The money is already budgeted.

"If you don't have the equipment, if you don't have the tools to do your job, then you're frustrated. And that frustration goes to the entire department," said assistant police chief, Bruce Dunagan.

That frustration is gone, thanks to big increases in public safety spending.

Biloxi police cars today are newer models, equipped with things like video cameras.

It's quite a change from just a few years ago.

"We'd have to borrow. Buy old, used cars. And we only had a few of them. Equipment was hand me down equipment. We'd have to piecemeal it," said Dunagan.

Nowadays, Biloxi police can afford specialized equipment. A 120 thousand dollar explosive containment device was one of last year's purchases.

Mayor A.J. Holloway says public safety is a priority in his administration.

"We've spent a lot of money in our police department and our fire department. With new equipment and new training, and new, everything in there is new just about," said Mayor Holloway.

The most noticeable change in recent years is the new 10 million dollar public safety center. It replaced the old public safety headquarters which stood next door,  in an old school building that building was built in the 1920's.

Until recently, the roof leaked, it was infested with bats and the air conditioner seldom worked.

The police communications center on Popps Ferry Road is also brand new. Those in charge say investing in new equipment helps officers do their job and boosts morale.

"I see smiles on their faces. They don't smile if they're not happy," said Dunagan.

Mayor Holloway says along with buying new equipment, raising salaries also represents a significant public safety improvement. Starting pay for police officers in Biloxi is now among the highest in the state.