JACKSON, Miss. – For three years Anthony Heath has worked to become a Jackson Police officer. This January he was finally accepted into the recruit training program. He passed all of his required tests and headed to the academy. Then, the city of Jackson implemented a hiring freeze putting a halt on a lifelong dream.
“I’ve been here since I was 14 years old I’ve always wanted to be a pillar of the community,” says Heath. The 33-year-old went in front of the Jackson City Council, Tuesday. He didn’t hold back describing what life’s been like as a Jackson Police recruit caught in the middle of a budget battle.
“I’m going through the recruit process. I haven’t been told anything permanent but the class is not going to happen now. I was told by personnel that I may have to apply again and I didn’t fail anything during the process and other recruits also. How is that possible and how can public safety take a big hit like that when you need officers in the city of Jackson,” says Heath.
In September, the Jackson City Council voted to put a hiring freeze for all city departments.
“I want to be a police officer, not for Ridgeland, not for Pearl but for Jackson, because Jackson is my heart,” says the passionate JPD hopeful.
Heath says he hasn’t heard anything since July about the training academy that would have started October 4. “I’m supposed to have all this shaved off getting screamed at, push-ups and all, because I was mentally and physically ready for that challenge,” adds Heath.
City Councilman De’Keither Stamps posed the question, why couldn’t this year’s recruit class finish the academy since it’s supposed to be part of last year’s budget. “The issue was this present years budget but if we had a recruit class it should have been in last year’s budget and we could just use those funds for the recruit class here. So if someone could iron that question out I’d appreciate it,” says Stamps, who’s gotten no answer at that time.
Jackson Police Chief Lee Vance says there will not be a recruiting class this fiscal year because it wasn’t added in to the budget. Instead, the chief will have to hire transfers who are certified police officers since he’s not allowed to hold a training academy.
As for Heath, he says he’ll continue to fight to one day wear the badge in blue. “My passion is to serve and protect.”