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Grand Jury Recommends Fixes for Meridian Police Camera System

A Lauderdale County, Miss., grand jury is recommending that the Meridian Police Department improve its surveillance and body camera systems and video storage to deter crime and assist with investigations.

A view of downtown Meridian, Mississippi.
(TNS) — A November 2023 Lauderdale County grand jury is recommending Meridian Police Department improve its camera and video storage systems to deter crime and help investigations.

The grand jury's report, which was released Tuesday morning, came as the Meridian City Council was meeting to take action on some of the same concerns. Among its recommendations, the grand jury suggested the city allocate funds for additional surveillance cameras throughout town, as well as the necessary software and video storage equipment needed to maintain video from body-worn and vehicle cameras for a period of three years.

The grand jury also recommended MPD have a dedicated information technology employee to assist officers with the department's video systems.

At the same time, Meridian Mayor Jimmie Smith asked council members on Tuesday to reject all proposals the city has received for new camera systems and advertise for new proposals with updated information.

Council members were visited by officers from Jackson Police Department in November who shared their department's success with the Fusus camera system, a cloud-based system allowing law enforcement to build networks of cameras using public and private feeds. Smith said his request to re-advertise for proposals was to ensure the cameras the city is asking for will work with the Fusus system.

The council also took action on Tuesday giving the mayor authority to back out of the city's current camera contract with Mississippi Power. The city has a five-year lease agreement with the utility provider for several dozen cameras installed throughout the city. Police Chief Deborah Naylor Young has previously said the cameras, while having proved helpful in several investigations, do not meet the city's needs.

Following a short executive session, the council voted 3-2 to give Smith the authority to enter into a mutual termination agreement with Mississippi Power over the camera contract. Councilmen Dwayne Davis and Joe Norwood Jr. voted against the motion, with Davis saying he wanted to discuss the matter further in an upcoming work session.

Exiting the camera contract alleviates council members' fears that the city will have to pay for both the new Fusus system and the Mississippi Power system, which still has two years remaining on the lease agreement.

The November grand jury's findings are not the first time additional resources have been recommended to help MPD do its job. Previous grand juries have called for additional equipment, training and funds to help the department succeed.

In addition to cameras and equipment, the grand jury also recommended the city update its website to allow those interested in becoming police officers to apply online. Those wishing to apply currently can pick up an application from the Civil Service Commission office on the first floor of city hall.

©2023 The Meridian Star, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.