Residents move forward

TUPELO – He’s done it again.
For the second year in a row Tupelo Police Sgt. James King took home the crown for the best barbecue at the fifth annual Forward Festival. Despite winning the title last year, King was skeptical that his slow-smoked Boston butts could do it again.
“We’ll see what happens,” King said as the judges made it to his table for a sampling. “Don’t really know what they’re looking for, so I just stuck to what won it for me last year.”
Good call. King’s butts set him apart from the other competitors.
“Man, this is some of the best meat I’ve had,” said Michael Richards as he piled a plate full of the winning dish. “And I eat a lot of barbecue, but James really put his foot in these.”
The Forward Festival was started by Ward 4 Councilwoman Nettie Davis as a way to improve community and police relations. In its fifth year, Maj. Anthony Hill said he feels it’s done just that.
“This is a great time for us as police officers to get out here with the people in the community and just have a good time,” said Hill. “We get to know them and they get to know us and we all come together. Most people don’t know the names of their neighborhood officers but events like this helps to bridge that divide.
“At the end of the day we’re citizens just like them and we want them to know that.”
The police didn’t just offer King’s barbecue. They gave away two Nintendo Wiis, a laptop computer, digital camera and an MP3 player to school children.
Said event organizer and police department employee Othea James: “We want to do something special for the kids and reward them for a job well-done in school so far this year. They are a very big part of this community and good police and community relations starts with them.”
That message seemed to be getting across. Lewis Russell said he’s never really had a good relationship with law enforcement and was skeptical about the event in its first year. But after attending it the past couple of years, Russell said he has a new view of police.
“The reason I didn’t like them was due to things I was doing wrong,” he admitted. “Being around them and just talking to them and getting to know them for the men and women they are has really helped me to change my way of thinking.”

Danza Johnson/NEMS Daily Journal