Majority Black Jackson may soon have courts, police run by majority white state government – National & International News – MON 27Feb2023


Majority Black Jackson may soon have courts, police run by majority white state government. State also moves to seize control of the city’s water system- and hundreds of millions in federal funds.


Majority Black Jackson may soon have courts, police run by majority white state government

Local residents and politicians in Jackson are outraged by recent proposals from the state legislature. Many see proposals for a new court system and expansion of Capitol Police jurisdiction as a paternalistic white takeover of a majority Black city. Others, including Jackson’s Democratic Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba, accuse state officials of attempting to set up a city within a city in Jackson – one white and affluent, the other Black and poor – tantamount to apartheid. 

Separate but equal judiciary

The first proposal would allow the state’s chief justice and attorney general (both white, neither from Jackson) to appoint judges and prosecutors for a new court system within Jackson. This would be a separate system from Jackson’s existing court system, whose judges and prosecutors are elected, which would supersede the elected court’s jurisdiction in parts of the city. Its judges would not have to live in Jackson, or even in Hinds County.

The white state legislators championing the bill (only one of which is from Jackson) say the new court would simply supplement the existing court and help to alleviate a case backlog. Critics say it is a naked power grab from the city’s elected Democratic government and its largely Black citizenry.

This bill initially passed in the statehouse earlier this month and is still under debate in the state Senate. Mayor Lumumba characterized the bill as “plantation politics”. He said of the legislators who voted for the bill, “I was surprised that they came half-dressed because they forgot to wear their hoods“. 

“If we allow this type of legislation to stand in Jackson, Mississippi, it’s a matter of time before it will hit New Orleans. It’s a matter of time before it hits Detroit, or wherever we find our people,” Lumumba said.

Policing a city within a city

The second proposal would expand the patrol of the Capitol Police force, which currently only patrols the Capitol district and state government buildings. The proposal would expand the bailiwick of the state-controlled Capitol Police to include wealthy (white) residential and shopping areas at the city’s heart. Recently, an amendment to the bill proposed giving Capitol Police jurisdiction over the entire city of Jackson.

Again, proponents of this proposal say that Capitol Police would not replace Jackson’s understaffed police force, but supplement it. However, this expanded district already has a much lower crime rate than the rest of Jackson. Critics see the move as an attempt to cordon off an affluent white-dominated power center, using intensified police presence as a show of force to intimidate Black residents.

Some fear this is the beginning of a return to the bad old days of segregation. It doesn’t help that the Capitol police have had several violent interactions with Black people in the past year. This includes two deadly encounters with Black motorists.

State takeover of Jackson’s water (and federal funds)

After a series of recent collapses, Jackson’s water system is currently under the control of a federal manager. But a third proposal seeks to transfer ownership of the system to a nine-member regional governing board to oversee Jackson’s water system. Again, most of the members would be appointed by Republican state leaders.

Locals are skeptical to say the least. Gov. Tate Reeves denied state financial aid requested by Jackson’s municipal leadership time after time. Reeves was so proud of this fact he even campaigned on it.

It wasn’t until the federal government pledged hundreds of millions of dollars to addressing the city’s water crisis that state leaders showed the slightest interest in helping. Skepticism is an understandable reaction. Reeves and his cronies don’t exactly have a stellar reputation when it comes to managing funds entrusted to them by the federal government to help disadvantaged Mississippians.

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