GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - As COVID-19 restrictions ease up in South Mississippi, the Gulfport Police Department is bringing back community relations events geared at building trust across the city. That’s what inspired “Chopping with 12.”
“We were like, where do we go to ask these questions?” Gulfport Police Department PIO Detective Jason DuCre’ said.
Organizers eventually found the perfect place for the answers and the dialogue they were looking for.
“You’re going to get brutal answers at a barber shop,” DuCre’ said.
Officers flocked to 7DS Ricky’s Barbershop to hear from people in the neighborhoods they patrol.
“People want to actually see police officers and what not in the same place they are,” owner Ricky Underwood said.
Food was brought in from McInnis’s 12 Bone BBQ and Smallcakes Cupcakery and Creamery, while Tabari Daniels from JZ 94.5 helped lead the discussion. The emphasis was for law enforcement to be approachable and relatable.
“I’ve met a lot of (officers) since I’ve been here and you wouldn’t even know they were a police officer because they are regular, down-to-earth people,” Underwood said.
Police also wanted to take the chance to build relationships with those that they serve and protect.
“We don’t do everything right and in our community they are our eyes and ears,” DuCre’ said. “So we depend on them to say, ‘Hey have you tried it this way? Have you tried it that way?’”
While the focus was on interacting with residents, officers also wanted to show off Gulfport’s finest men and women.
“We are the premier agency on the coast,” DuCre’ said. “We encourage people to come work with us.”
The department hopes that events like this help promote their incentives and training.
“We are the agency that the federal guys come after when they are looking for federal agents,” DuCre’ said.
After a day filled with engagement, organizers see a bright future for the barber shop talks.
“Hopefully, everytime it gets bigger and better. That’s our goal,” DuCre’ said.
The Gulfport Police Department wants to hold similar events each quarter at different barber shops across the city. If you are interested in holding an event, contact the Community Relations office.