Police to limit roadblocks in Mississippi capital after trial

JACKSON, Mississippi — Police in the Mississippi capital have agreed to remove aggressive roadblocks in response to a lawsuit that said Jackson’s officers violated people’s constitutional right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.

A settlement was reached Wednesday in the federal class action lawsuit the Mississippi Center for Justice and MacArthur Justice Center filed in February against the city of Jackson and its police chief. The regulation calls for a ban on general checkpoints and limits arrests and towing if drivers are ticketed for a traffic violation.

The lawsuit accused the 80% black city’s police department of using roadblocks in majority black, low-income neighborhoods in an attempt to nab crime suspects.

The regulations state that Jackson police may conduct security checks “only for constitutionally acceptable purposes” and “with a minimum of intrusion or inconvenience to motorists.”

Jackson – which has a black mayor, a black police chief and a majority black police force – has used roadblocks for years, with several officers stopping vehicles to check driver’s licenses and car insurance and to try to find wanted people when they are arrested. warrants.

The lawsuit challenged the Jackson Police Department’s “Ticket Arrest Tow” effort that began in January, with vehicles being towed away if drivers were arrested. Chief James Davis said in February that checkpoints had been set up in areas with high rates of violent crime to find people with outstanding warrants for murder, aggravated assault or other charges.

At a press conference on February 14, Democratic Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba described the roadblocks as “useful tools”.

Mississippi Center for Justice President and CEO Vangela M. Wade said when filing the lawsuit that she understood the police chief and the people of Jackson want to fight crime. But she said the lack of a driver’s license, car registration or liability insurance “has not been found to be indicative of criminal behavior or intent”.

Two of the plaintiffs, married couple LaQuenza Morgan and Lauren Rhoades, told The Associated Press in February that police conducted roadblocks every few months in their predominantly black, working-class neighborhood. He’s black and she’s white, and they said the officers treated them differently. Rhoades said officers didn’t even look at his driver’s license. Morgan said he doesn’t recall officers ever waving him through without checking his license.

Under the settlement, police will not be allowed to conduct checkpoints for general crime control or deterrence, or to check for narcotics or outstanding warrants for drivers or passengers.

The regulation also states that if a person is stopped at a checkpoint for any reason other than a traffic violation, officers can issue tickets – but cannot make arrests – if they find the driver without car insurance or with a suspended driver’s license.

Also, persons arrested during a roadblock must be authorized to appoint another person to take charge of their vehicle. If the vehicle cannot be recovered but can be parked legally, it can be parked instead of towed.

“JPD personnel should only call a towing service as a last resort,” the policy states.

The city must also ensure tow companies make towed vehicles pickable within 24 hours, including weekends, and tow companies cannot charge storage fees for a vehicle within 24 hours.

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Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter: http://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus.

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