Dozens of South Mississippi law enforcement officers were in Long Beach for the Southern Regional Public Safety Institute graduation. After the ceremony, officers were asked about the California kidnapping, and a program called the Amber Alert System .
Gulfport Police Chief Wayne Payne said that if Mississippi belonged to the Amber program, today's graduates would be better officers. "Anytime you have a tool like that broadcast so quickly a description of a predator or a description of a vehicle, certainly it aids law enforcement," the chief said.
In the California kidnapping case, the suspect's license plate number appeared on highway signs and in the media as soon as police got it. Officers said the information that came from the Amber Alert System helped them find the suspect before he killed his two teenage victims.
Larry Waldie is the assistant sheriff in Kern County, California. "It is just phenomenal," Waldie said, referring to the Amber system. "We just got that Friday."
The Amber program originated in Dallas. It's now up and running in more than 40 communities around the country. Amber is credited for helping police find at least 17 missing children.
Even though South Mississippi doesn't have Amber, Harrison County Sheriff George Payne said the coast will get something similar to it. He recently received a multi-million dollar federal grant to computerize every South Mississippi police car.
The sheriff said his system should help coast police as much as the Amber system helped California officers. "We're hoping with a punch of a button, every police car here in South Mississippi is going to have the picture and the information just like that program they have in California," Sheriff Payne said.
The sheriff expects many of today's Southern Regional Public Safety Institute graduates to be working with the new crime fighting computers in about 18 months.