Law enforcement looks to educate, recruit during Pathways2Possibilities

Warren Kulo
BILOXI, Mississippi — Law enforcement agencies have perhaps the largest presence at the Pathways2Possibilities career expo going on this week at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum Convention Center.

No less than 10 agencies are present, including units from the office of Mobile County Sheriff Sam Cochran, Harrison County Sheriff’s Office, Biloxi and Gulfport Police Department, Mississippi Security Police, the Pascagoula Police K9 unit and the Biloxi PD Bomb Squad.

In addition, representatives from the William Carey University Criminal Justice Program and the Mississippi Center for Justice are on hand for the two-day event, which kicked off Wednesday morning.

The 8th-grade students attending from Mississippi six southern-most counties have the opportunity to step inside the Harrison County Sheriff’s Mobile Command Post, as well as the mobile unit of the Harrison County Emergency Management Agency. The can fire laser weapons in a shooting range set up by the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office and visit with K9 officer “Rambo” from Pascagoula PD.

According to Frank Baskin, the Community Relations Officer for the Harrison County Sheriff’s Department, the presence of law enforcement is two-fold.

A student wearing goggles specially designed to simulate the effects of alcohol attempts to pass a field sobriety test outside the Harrison County Sheriff’s Office Mobile Command Center during Pathways2Possibilties Wednesday.

“Our main focus today is alcohol awareness,” Baskin said, adding that the HCSO had teamed with MADD for P2P, “but it’s also an ideal venue to encourage kids to join our Explorer program, as well as learn about careers in law enforcement.

“At this age, kids don’t necessarily understand that there’s more opportunities available in law enforcement than just being a police officer. There are many other opportunities.”

Outside the HCSO Mobile Command Unit, students were outfitted with a pair of special goggles created by Fatal Vision which simulate alcohol’s effect on vision. Baskin said the effect is designed to simulate the vision of someone with a .16 blood alcohol content — twice Mississippi’s legal limit.

Once they don the goggles, students are instructed to walk, heel to toe, down a straight yellow line taped to the floor.

“There’s been some kids who have had their eyes opened,” Baskin said. “Nobody has done it correctly.”

Student Eric Wagner of Pearl River Central Middle School was one of those who tried.

“It was very complicated,” he said. “It was hard to keep your balance.”

Eric was asked if the activity helped his understanding of the dangers of drinking and driving. His answer was on point.

“It screws up people’s minds.”