Mississippi Legislature Passes Final Version of Bill to Expand State-Run Police Department in Majority-Black Jackson
The Mississippi Legislature’s majority-white and Republican-led body is set to expand the territory of a state-run police department in Jackson, a city that is majority-Black and governed by Democrats. The state lawmakers are taking the final steps necessary to endorse the setup, even as critics condemn the proposal, citing local self-governance concerns and the creation of unequal justice systems across the city.
For the past three years, Jackson, Mississippi, the largest U.S. city with the greatest proportion of Black inhabitants, has recorded over one hundred homicides annually. Supporters of the proposal say it is necessary to take action to lower the city’s worrisome crime rate, which affects roughly 150,000 people.
On Thursday, senators passed the last version of the bill, which Democratic Sen. John Horhn described as “toxic.” The partisan vote saw 31 Republicans voting for the cause, while 15 Democrats rejected it. Similarly, the House is expected to pass the measure on Friday, sending it to Republican Governor Tate Reeves. While he remains tight-lipped about his final decision, Reeves has consistently identified Jackson’s crime issues.
Residents of Jackson are upset about the plan because they believe it will diminish their influence in municipal politics by expanding the state-run police agency. It also highlights the continuing tensions between the Republican-controlled legislature and the Democratic-led main metropolis in the state. Some people are worried that if this scheme goes forward, Jackson will become a surveillance state.
If enacted, the bill would set up a temporary court within the Capitol Complex Improvement District in a section of Jackson. The judge’s appointment would rest with the Chief Justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court, who is a conservative white man, instead of being selected by city officials. The court would adjudicate cases similar to those in municipal courts. It would have the authority to handle traffic infringements, initial criminal charges, and misdemeanours.
Sen. Brice Wiggins (R-Pascagoula) argues that this plan is a proactive attempt to aid Jackson during this difficult period. Senator Barbara Blackmon (D-Canton), a Black Democrat, drew parallels between the planned legislation and the racist white laws passed to repress Black people after Reconstruction.