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Local law enforcement officials say they need anti-terrorist training

By Staff
KEEPING AN EYE OUT Lauderdale County Sheriff's Deputy Tony McMahan keeps a watchful eye on power stations like Mississippi Power Co.'s Plant Sweatt properties that could be targeted by terrorist groups. Photo by Marianne Todd/The Meridian Star
By Marianne Todd/The Meridian Star
Oct. 16, 2001
Federal officials have placed local law enforcement agencies on high alert, but officers said Monday they are still waiting for specialized training to sharpen their knowledge of terrorist tactics.
Some agencies participated in a statewide anti-terrorist task force this month in Jackson, hoping to hear plans for training. Instead, they were assured that federal officials will keep lines of communication open.
Mike Mitchell, chief deputy with the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department, said sheriff's deputies need the training if federal authorities expect local law enforcement to keep a better watch.
Mitchell and other law enforcement officials received a letter Monday from Southern District U.S. Attorney Dunn Lampton, outlining plans for a anti-terrorist training seminar. The letter did not give a date; Lampton could not be reached for comment.
Officers patrol frequently
Law enforcement officials have been on alert ever since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and the Pentagon.
Last week, federal officials placed local law enforcement on "high alert" because of the possibility of a terrorist retaliation to the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan.
Lauderdale County Sheriff Billy Sollie said he has ordered his deputies to frequent power substations and water associations in the county. He said Mississippi Power Co. and other businesses have requested his department to increase its patrols.
Despite that, some law enforcement officials still say they need more and better training.
Lt. Wade Johnson, spokesman for the Meridian Police Department, said his agency is "getting a lot of information from the government, some intelligence from them. We're aware of people on the watch list in case we come across them somewhere."
Agencies use caution
Sgt. Ronnie Carter of the Mississippi Highway Patrol said his agency has received FBI memos with tips to identify suspects and spot suspicious cars. Many criminals are stopped on Mississippi highways by troopers making routine stops, he said.
Officials with the Meridian Fire Department and the county volunteer fire departments also have been on alert. MFD Chief Bunky Partridge said that "we're watching everything and exercising caution when going to hazard materials calls."
Clarence Butler, coordinator for county volunteer fire departments and director of the Lauderdale County Emergency Management Agency, has had several town meetings so that local emergency personnel can be informed.
Marianne Todd is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call her at 693-1551, ext. 3236, or e-mail her at mtodd@themeridianstar.com.

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