Proposed "Takeover" has one of America's Most Diverse Cities Taking to the Streets
Photo courtesy of CNN
Written by: Ishmael Barrios
In approximately 22 Republican-controlled states, state legislatures are targeting leaders of major urban areas. An example of this can be seen in Jackson, Mississippi, where a proposal is being put forth to "reshape" the city's criminal justice system. Other bills being debated may further strip the city of control. Remarkably, more than 82% of the city's population consists of black or African Americans, yet white conservative state officials are attempting to implement their policies.
The mayor of Jackson has expressed his concerns by stating that this move is taking the city back in time, and is comparable to colonization and apartheid. These lawmakers are pushing for these bills due to the city's broken water system, record number of homicides in 2021, and a high level of street violence. However, Cliff Johnson, a law professor at the University of Mississippi and director of the university's MacArthur Justice Center, warns that such bills could result in a police department and judicial system that are not accountable to local voters, and whose members are appointed by white officials in a city that is predominantly black. He calls this bill the most radical piece of legislation he has seen over the past 30 years of his legal practice in Mississippi.
An initiative aimed at bringing positive change to the city has been met with severe opposition from its inhabitants. They fear that the expansion of Capitol police jurisdiction will result in incorrect representation and increased police misconduct. Reports indicate that since the department's expansion last summer, there have been numerous complaints about officers escalating interactions with individuals for no apparent reason. In addition to this, high-speed car chases around the Jackson area have led to innocent people sustaining injuries or being shot. Sadly, in the past year, police officers have shot five individuals, one of whom suffered fatal injuries, according to local news sources.
Despite the intentions of lawmakers, the citizens of Jackson hold a different view on the proposed bills and proposals, which are expected to bring about drastic changes. Many in the city have already witnessed the negative impact of these changes, and the tragic loss of human lives. One such life was that of 25-year-old Jaylen Lewis who was fatally shot by Capitol Police officers during a routine traffic stop on September 25. With a young family left behind, his mother mourns the loss of a good man and is dissatisfied with the lack of communication surrounding this incident. She believes that expanding the Capitol Police territory would be detrimental to people of color in Jackson. Investigations by the MBI are underway, but the impact of these changes on the community remains a matter of concern.
The outcomes of ongoing investigations into police misconduct remain uncertain. Unfortunately, it's rare for officers to be held accountable for their wrongdoing, especially those in plain clothes or special units. These units often enjoy protection due to their ability to produce high numbers of arrests in crime-ridden areas. Regarded as "boots on the ground" policing, their positive impact on reports and statistics is countered by the negative experiences of those being policed. Despite several reports highlighting various instances of misconduct by officers in these units, they continue to operate, though some have now been disbanded. As a result, one might expect a decline in misconduct among these units.
Capitol police officers and their special units have gained notoriety for their aggressive behavior towards civilians, with numerous instances of misconduct being reported. Despite the many absurd stories that have surfaced, little has been done to reprimand these officers. People often attempt to justify their actions by citing non-compliance or the officer's fear for their safety. Unfortunately, it often takes extreme measures, such as loss of life, for officers to face any repercussions, and even then, it's rare. The truth of what happens in these situations can be difficult to cover up.
What may seem like a near miss for some can be a life-altering event for others. For instance, a traffic stop conducted by a Capitol Police officer in December resulted in a high-speed chase that ended in gunshots being fired, with a bullet piercing the wall of an apartment in northwest Jackson, narrowly missing a sleeping 13-year-old girl. While Smith lay asleep in her bed, a stray bullet pierced her arm and lodged itself there.
The two bullet holes left on her walls remain a grim reminder of that fateful night. Smith suspects the Capitol Police officers of being responsible for her injury. Upon rushing outside to report the incident, she found a Capitol Police officer holding a gun. Smith's desire for safety in her neighborhood is often thwarted by the department's aggressive tactics, leading her to question who will protect them from the very people who are supposed to protect and serve. If the jurisdiction of the department is expanded citywide, Smith fears for the safety of her community and may choose to leave.