By JB Clark
TUPELO – As Bart Aguirre transfers into a new role as the chief of the Tupelo Police Department, he said he wants to focus on getting the police department’s new building built.
Beyond that he also wants to double down on the community-oriented aspects of the department.
“My first thing on my list is to build this new police department,” he said. “It’s a long-awaited project that we have been dreaming about for so long now and it’s becoming a reality.”
He said continuing to focus and invest in the North Mississippi Law Enforcement Training Center and Police Athletic League are his next big priorities.
“I’m a big fan of the Police Athletic League,” he said. The league is a part of the department’s community-oriented policing efforts which Aguirre describes as getting the officer out of his car and connected to his surrounding community.
“The community needs to know who their police are and getting to interact with them outside of an arrest,” he said. “We have to break down that wall and become more personable in the community.”
Other community-oriented policing programs include Coffee With a Cop and the Communities Forward Festival, two things Aguirre said he will continue to invest in.
He also wants to make sure the special operations and school resource officers are trained and equipped to deal with anything they may face.
“Look at the mass shootings we’ve seen. Are we ready for an active-shooter situation?”
Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton said one of the biggest reasons he recommended Aguirre for the police chief appointment was his experience and involvement in the community.
He has been in the Tupelo community for 55 years, 29 of those working in the Tupelo Police Department, where he started as a radio dispatcher.
“I have served under six different chiefs and after Chief Ed Crider retired, only two of the next five were chosen from within the ranks of our department.”
Aguirre said his appointment will be a morale boost for the department because it shows, with hard work, an officer can work from the bottom of the department to the top.
“Our guys want to see someone who has paid their dues,” he said. “They want someone to give them a chance and we’ve got folks who’ve been here a long time. It’s a slow process but there is evidence now that you can make it up through the ranks.”
As he moves into the new role, he said the community needs to know he will be the same “humble dude,” he’s always been.
“I have a reputation that shows I’m fair, open-minded and willing to work with both sides of whatever element.”
He will begin serving as the Tupelo police chief on Oct. 14.
Aguirre is the grandson of Mexican immigrants and moved to Tupelo 55 years ago with his parents who ran restaurants in the community including the Gaslight Inn.