New chief brings more than two decades of experience
By Cassandra Favre, Staff Writer
Jan 6, 2017, 16:37
This week, Daren Freeman joined the Bay St. Louis Police Department as the city's new interim police chief and Freeman said Friday, "I've been ecstatic ever since I walked through the door."
''Everyone's been great," he said. "It (the department) is actually not in as bad as shape as everyone thinks it is."
Freeman was born in Biloxi and moved with his father, who worked in construction, to locales in Texas and Louisiana.
For the past 20 years, he's lived on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. For the past two years, he commuted to work in Jackson from his home in Pass Christian.
"I was ready to come back," he said. "My family and roots are on the coast. It's been a breath of fresh air."
When Freeman was in college, he worked at an internship with the Harrison County Sheriff's Office from 1990 to 1992. He also worked part-time and dispatched for that office. He said he also worked with the Biloxi Police Department in 1992.
In 1993, he began his career with the Mississippi Highway Patrol. Upon his appointment as interim police chief, Freeman was serving as the director of Internal Affairs with the rank of captain for the Department of Public Safety and the Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol, a release from the city of Bay St. Louis said.
"I had a great job," Freeman said. "I acted as a liaison with the administration and troop commanders in the field. More or less worked with the legislature on the budget, worked with the governor's office, the attorney general's office on critical confidential information involving the Department of Public Safety."
According to the release, Freeman's accomplishments include: Working with the legislature with a $95 million budget; obtaining funds for agency projects; coordinating the upgrade of the MS Highway Safety Patrol promotional assessment program; assisting in the creation of an Officer Candidate School for newly promoted supervisors; served on the panel to modernize the procedure manual for the Mississippi Department of Public Safety; assisted the MHSP with cadet recruitment and the selection process; served as interim public affairs officer prior to and during Hurricane Katrina for the Gulf Coast; executed briefings for Gov. Phil Bryant and executive staff members on confidential matters relating to MDPS; supervised investigative matters for the Commissioner of Public Safety and hosted briefings for the MS Attorney General and staff.
Freeman's training includes: Glock Armorer School, National Rifle Association/Shotgun Instructors School, U.S. Customs/Blue Lightning Traveling Criminal Apprehension Program school and the Federal Bureau of Investigation Command College, the release states.
Freeman said that as far as possible changes at the police department go, "It's a work in process because I want to talk to everyone that works there. Pick their brains, if they had an unlimited budget, unlimited resources, what would you do to make this a better place?"
From there, Freeman said he, with the help of Capt. Wes Mayley, plans to establish a command staff to look at those wants and needs.
"Wes Mayley has done an outstanding job, I can't speak highly enough of him," Freeman said. "The city needs to be very proud of him. When I first I met him, I knew right away, he's a star."
Freeman said the current police department building needs improvements.
"These guys need to have a nice place to go to work at," Freeman said.
Prior to applying for the police chief position, Freeman said he gathered information. One of his areas of expertise involves policies and procedures and hiring and firing practices.
Freeman plans to sit down with his command staff to develop a policy and procedure manual that everyone's familiar with.
"We are all held to the same standards," he said. "Same thing with promotions, I don't think there needs to be any type of favoritism, everyone has the same opportunity."
Freeman said officers would take a merit-based test and interview with a panel composed of a variety of law enforcement officers from agencies along the Coast, who will grade them.
"Everyone will be on the same playing field," Freeman said. "It gives everyone an opportunity to advance their career."
Freeman said after meeting with the city's investigators, he plans to look at the city's criminal statistics and compare those to other similar-sized cities.
"Of course, they always more want more manpower and I would love to give them more manpower if the stats meet the needs, then we'll absolutely try and get some more help," Freeman said.
He said the department's budget is good and he is impressed by the council's support with funding. Freeman said the city's budget for the police department for the past two years has been "up to standard."
As far as the ongoing Department of Justice investigation goes, Freeman said he has neither been involved in nor briefed on the matter.
He said it won't affect his decision-making process moving forward.
"We're not going to make any drastic changes right now," he said. "I want to get an overall picture and give everyone an opportunity that works there to have input. It's going to be our department. It's going to be a team effort moving forward. At the end of the day, I'll make the decision and stand behind it. If it goes south, then it will be on me. But I want everyone to know that their input is going to be considered."
Freeman said Mayor Les Fillingame told him he's going to run the department and be responsible for it.
Freeman said he did not know the mayor prior to his interview, nor does he have any ties to any political figures in the city or county.
"I'm going to do my job, manage the police department, give them the resources to do their job safely and effectively and support them in any way I can," Freeman said.
Freeman said one of the reasons he decided to apply for the position was his desire to get back to the Coast to contribute, utilize the skills he learned, be a part of the community and "get to know people."
"I really am humbled and honored to be here," Freeman said. "There's a lot of young guys that work for the department. I like that because they can be trained and given a career path and motivation to stay.