Police make mark on Mardi Gras Day visitor

Mardi Gras Day in Biloxi, where tens of thousands of people are concentrated into a several-block area of downtown, can be a challenging time for public safety workers, but the Biloxi Police brightened a few faces on Tuesday.

There have been reports of officers making sure children went home with beads after parades, a wedding ring set that was reunited with its owner, and reports that traffic cleared out smoothly, albeit slowly, after the parades.

But for Grace Namwamba, a professor and chairperson in the Department of Human Ecology at University of Maryland Eastern Shore, the actions of a Biloxi Police officer left a lasting impression.

Namwamba arrived in Biloxi for a conference that runs through Saturday, but she and her colleagues were greeted with barricaded downtown streets. Her airport taxi, she said, tried to get through but had to drop off the entourage and their several days of luggage several blocks from the hotel.

It was a struggle, Namwamba said, until Biloxi Police Officer Ashleigh Pack drove up. 

“As we were struggling to pull our luggage, Officer Pack approached us and offered us a ride in her police cruiser,” Namwamba wrote in a message to the police Facebook page. “She went a step further and loaded our bags in the trunk of the cruiser and dropped us off close to the hotel entrance. Thank you Officer Pack for making our visit to Biloxi much better. You are an inspiration to all because of your kindness and dedication to the public. I wish you all the best in your career as an exemplary police officer.”

Later, Namwamba said the incident had special meaning to her, since her father had been a police officer in her native Kenya and she remembered riding in his police cruiser as a child:  “It brought back many memories after so many years.”

“Your officer was a Godsend, an angel,” Namwamba declared, “and I was thinking for an officer to feel that she can do something like this, it must be a culture in your department. I will never forget Biloxi.”

Said Biloxi Police Chief John Miller: “I’m always glad to hear these positive comments, but I’m not surprised. We are a community police department and are always involved in the community.”

Despite police officers being familiar with working major events throughout the year, they’re reminded of their roles in briefings before major events.

“We tell them that we’ll have a lot of out-of-towners,” Miller said. “We remind them that it’s going to be a long day, that tempers are going to flare, that people will become upset, and some drinking will be involved. But don’t take anything personal.

“Don’t let it get under your skin. Treat people decently. Do your job and follow the law, but remember it is a special occasion, and people may not be themselves.

“It gets back to what we have always said. We want people to have a good time in Biloxi, but to have a safe time.”
Photos:  See images from visitor’s police encounter


News and notes: The Mardi Gras edition

By the numbers:  Biloxi Police estimate that between 45,000 and 55,000 people attended Tuesday’s Gulf Coast Carnival Association parade; officers reported making a half-dozen arrests.

GCCA parade images:  To see photos from before, during and after the 2018 Gulf Coast Carnival Association parade, which rolled through downtown Biloxi on Tuesday, click here.

Happy Birthday Biloxi:  Mardi Gras Day, coincidentally, also marked the 319th birthday of Biloxi this year. It was on Feb. 13, 1699 that French explorer Pierre Le Moyne d’iberville and 14 men landed on the mainland at present-day Biloxi. Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich, who relishes any chance to promote Biloxi’s colorful history, led paradegoers at City Hall in singing Happy Birthday.  To see the video, click here.


Other news and notes: Book signing, swimming tryouts

Visitors Center book signing:  Author Cloteal A. Fitzpatrick will be at the Biloxi Visitors Center from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday for a reading and book signing of her memoir, “Blessed Serenity.”.Fitzpatrick’s opus tells a heart-wrenching and compelling story of a remarkable journey.  To see more about the author and her book, click here.

Tribe tryouts:  The Biloxi Public Schools will hold tryouts for The Tribe swimming program on Monday, immediately after school for fifth and sixth graders, and on Saturday, Feb. 24 at 10 a.m. for kindergarten to fourth graders. Both tryouts take place at the Biloxi Natatorium on Father Ryan Avenue.  For details, call Biloxi Public Schools Aquatics Director Meghan Taylor at 228-234-8225.