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McCary drawn early to law enforcement

By By Fredie Carmichael / staff writer
Oct. 21, 2002
Meridian's new assistant police chief says it was his childhood dream to become a police officer.
Assistant Chief Keith McCary, who first joined the Meridian Police Department more than 20 years ago at the age of 18, said his childhood dream reached a new high when he was named to the post earlier this month.
McCary, formerly MPD's training officer, met with The Meridian Star editorial board to talk about local law enforcement issues and his own calling to the profession.
The Meridian Star: What drew you to the profession?
Keith McCary: When I was 16 or 17-years-old, there was a security guard at Highland Park that we used to pick on. You know how kids can get to picking on people. Well, I was with a group and we used to pick on this man and call him Barney Fife because of his appearance. Here he was, this thin man who looked just like the character Barney Fife on the Andy Griffith Show. A lot of times we would do it late at night so he couldn't see us. But one night he caught us and I felt bad.
One night I finally met him. His name was Willie Shanrock, and I started talking to him about what his job was like. I never will forget one night at the park when a car came flying through the park. Now he didn't have a car at this time, so he takes off running through the park to cut the driver off and stop the car. And when he caught him, he told the driver You need to slow down when you're driving through here. There are kids in here, don't you ever do that again.'
I thought to myself, Man, that's what I want to do.' He had a voice of authority. Just talking to him and listening to some of his stories about some of his chases made me want to do what he did.
The Star: What are some of the things you hope to implement during your term as assistant chief?
McCary: When I train these officers … I train them to care like whoever they stop is someone they care about and love. If they come work a burglary at your house I want them to act like they're working a burglary at their momma's house. Do what you're supposed to do. Another thing I try to get them to do is explain ways to prevent it next time and communicate with the victims.
The Star: How do you assess the department these days?
Keith McCary: We have a generally good police department. We have a real good group of officers, and we have a very young department. We just hired 12 who are in the academy and we have four more in training right now who will go to the academy in January.
We go through the process of training these officers well and hoping that they'll stay with us. But in today's time, it seems like they're chasing the higher pay instead of staying in their hometown and working in one career with one company. It's just the sign of the times I guess.
The Star: What are your thoughts on the condition of the police station and what other sites are being considered for a new one?
McCary: We're looking at finding a temporary place to move to. The station that we've got now, the walls are falling away from the roof and that's what's causing the roof to leak. The risk manager told me it was just a bad architectural design. It's just not holding up. So we're looking at a place to move to, but a temporary move may be a year or longer.
As far as a location, I think we should be downtown. It's important because you've got the county jail here, where we visit frequently. Something close to downtown would be best. There's been talk about occupying the old BellSouth building and I've also heard talk about buying the whole block the police department is on and building a new one there.
Something needs to be done because we've spent money over the years making repairs to the station we're in now just to keep it up and going.