Sean Tindell, a former state senator and Court of Appeals judge, was appointed as the Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety by Governor Tate Reeves in the height of a global pandemic. However, that hasn’t stopped him from making major changes in just 120 days.
“Well obviously when I started on June 1, Drivers Service stations were still closed and they had been closed for about eight weeks,” said Tindell. “Two weeks later we opened them back up in the middle of June so we had a ten week backlog that needed to be provided again.”
The Commissioner said once they reopened, people again faced long lines and delays even with splitting up service alphabetically throughout the week. This was a measure largely to help “flatten the curve” of COVID-19. He said that is when the department started thinking about long term solutions.
Tindell said it wasn’t uncommon for individuals to show up as early as 5 a.m. to get in line. When the doors would open at 8 a.m. there would be a line 200 people deep. The department soon began allowing for people to book a reservation time to come in to the stations.
Programing professionals with Drivers Services then developed a system where people can request an appointment time to have their license needs met. The program officially launched statewide on October 1.
He also implemented the ‘Skip the Line’ campaign where they set up live camera feeds so people can log on to see how long the line is at specific locations before heading to the stations.
Another major adjustment impacts individuals working to renew their firearms permit. It is now no longer required for people to be re-fingerprinted in order to receive their updated license.
“We took that step out. We are utilizing fingerprints that were submitted the first time someone got their concealed carry permit and now we are making those be mailed in,” said Tindell.
Legislation passed in 2020 will also allow for Mobile ID, which Tindell says will be available soon. This will allow drivers to present ID on their mobile device and have the chance to take their own driver’s license photo.
“When it comes time to renew, you’ll be able to use the app to renew your ID and you can take your selfie and it’ll be your ID picture so you can get the perfect picture,” said Tindell.
The Highway Patrol was removed from administrative work within Drivers Services, which frees up more officers on the roads. DPS has seen a continued shortage of officers and agents for years, and there has been a concerted effort to hold Trooper Schools to fill the vacancies and compensate for troopers eligible for retirement.
Tindell highlighted the changes happening at the Mississippi State Crime Lab and the medical examiner’s office. Since his appointment they have hired an additional pathologist on the Coast. He said the backlogged autopsies have been completed and they are now working diligently on filing the reports. There is a possibility to add some tech and assistant positions at these facilities.
“We are also looking at other ideas to utilize other medical professionals to assist the pathologist,” said Tindell. “You know, you look at nurse practitioners or physician’s assistants or nurses. Other states have done this with medical experts as well to assist with the autopsies and reports to get those completed and out.”
Tindell has had the opportunity to appoint several individuals since assuming the office. After the retirement of Colonel Chris Gillard, Tindell said he aimed to surround himself with individuals who have a true law enforcement background. To replace Gillard, he selected Colonel Randy Ginn who had been the Lt. Colonel under Gillard.
He also brought in Keith Davis as a Deputy Commissioner and Steven McDevitt as Deputy Commissioner of Finance, both of which have a history of law enforcement