‘We’re not turning down anything’: Rolling Fork PD looks to rebuild following Friday tornado
ROLLING FORK, Miss. (WLBT) - Standing outside the ruins of the Rolling Fork Police Department, Asst. Chief Herbert Caesar is a portrait of resilience.
Going on about two hours of sleep since an EF4 tornado flattened much his town on Friday night, Caesar says he and his fellow officers are now tasked with not only protecting the community they love, but rebuilding.
“We had a fleet of six units, we are down to two. We need tasers. We definitely need flashlights, radios,” he said, the sound of heavy equipment moving debris in the background. “We probably need computers – definitely computers.”
“We’re not turning down anything. And if we don’t need it now, pretty sure we’re gonna need it later on.”
On Friday, an EF4 tornado ripped through the Mississippi Delta town of fewer than 2,000 people.
The police station, a brick building located at 48 Dr. Martin Luther King St., was decimated.
Half of the building was reduced to rubble, with bricks and cinder blocks strewn about like children’s Legos, mixed in with broken desks, ruined computers and other office furniture.
The other half of the building fared better, with the plate glass window and glass door blown out, and the door to the CID pushed open with blinds and other debris.
Two Rolling Fork police cruisers were parked under what was left of the department’s garage, both scraped and with windows busted out.
Three Jackson Police Department officers, along with three members of the JPD chaplain team, were visiting with the assistant chief Tuesday.
Sgt. Fredric Suttles says JPD hopes to share resources to help Rolling Fork until the agency gets back on its feet.
“They don’t have vehicles to operate their police department. They lost all their intel, such as their vests and walkie talkies [and] different things like that,” Suttles said. “One of the things is maybe being able to provide some officers to help with security throughout the perimeters of the city to make sure no one is being violated and for public safety issues.”
Some resources are already coming in. A mobile command unit already had been brought in from another department. It arrived Tuesday, according to the assistant chief.
Once it’s up and running, Rolling Fork officers could have some much-needed temporary meeting space.
“We pretty much meet wherever we can to do our pre-shift briefings,” Caesar said. “There’s not a lot of places where we can actually go, so we gather where we can, where it’s nice and quiet where I can get the message out that I need to get to the officers to do their duties... and we go from there.”
Law enforcement duties aside, JPD chaplains were also on hand to assess the situation.
“There’s no way they could have been prepared for this. These officers need as much spiritual love as we can possibly give, in fact, we call upon the clergy to come and visit and talk with these officers and first responders because this is not everyday stuff,” said Rev. Hilliard Lackey, a JPD chaplain and associate professor at Jackson State University.
Pastor Thomas Jenkins, also with the JPD, says he hopes JPD can help find resources for those officers who also lost their homes.
“Chief Miles, he did lose his home - completely destroyed. We have another officer... who lost his home as well. We had an officer sustain damage to their home as well,” Caesar said. “But I promise you they didn’t skip a beat. They are right here protecting and serving the community.”
Caesar says officers want to be home with their families right now, but also know that duty calls. “That’s what we’re gonna do regardless of anything that happens, whether it’s rain, sleet, storms, snow, we’re going to be here,” he said. “They’re not going to be able to get rid of the police department.”
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