Comply now, complain later.
Gulfport police officers gave the advice Sunday afternoon to residents gathered at Greater New Light Missionary Baptist Church for the first of many informational sessions Chief Leonard Papania and Sgt. Damon McDaniel hope to hold in the community, including public schools.
McDaniel said Sunday’s session was like preaching to the choir because the small group that turned out appeared to be mostly church elders, including his parents, the Rev. Steve McDaniel Jr. and Katherine McDaniel. Still, the group learned about police procedures, and officers encouraged them to interject questions and comments.
Because of deadly shootings in other communities, both by and of police officers, Papania said his department needs to work with the public now more than ever.
“So much of what’s going on in the nation is a lack of understanding of police procedures,” he said.
Sgt. Paul Podlin summarized the department’s policy on use of force. He said deadly force should come into play only when a suspect is trying to seriously injure or kill someone. The officer’s objective is not to wound or even kill but to stop the threat.
Simple traffic stops or other situations where residents encounter police officers should remain nonconfrontational if residents comply. A person who believes an officer has acted illegally should file a complaint after the fact rather than arguing during the stop, the officers said. Chris Fisher, an attorney who attended the session at the department’s request, agreed.
Podlin also showed the group what officers carry on their duty belts: a Taser, pepper spray, a flashlight, a radio, a gun and a collapsible baton designed to keep a suspect at a safe distance, not for hitting.
As the presentation continued, Papania told the Sun Herald his officers plan to regroup, hone their talk and hold more community meetings.
Papania said his department has a good relationship with the community, but a greater understanding of the police officer’s role can only make it better.