The Committee heard from the Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice, Capitol Police Chief, Hinds County DA, Hinds County Sheriff, and more.
On Thursday, the Mississippi House Judiciary B Committee held a meeting focused on the topic of crime in the capital city of Jackson.
“I want to thank everyone for being here, this is a very, very important topic for not only the City of Jackson, but for all of Mississippi,” House Judiciary B Chairman Nick Bain said.
Representative Bain acknowledged that people may question why the lawmakers are holding this meeting, to which he said the crime problem in Jackson is a problem for all of Mississippi, not just the capital city.
Chairman Bain said lawmakers began having discussions back in July about having a hearing on Jackson crime.
“Everybody that is on the agenda was confirmed to be here, as late as Friday of last week. Yesterday, at 12 o’clock, [Jackon] Mayor [Chokwe] Lumumba, who was supposed to be here to speak first, informed us that he was not going to be here and informed us that he had some sickness and was unable to be here,” Bain explained.
Bain said that as of yesterday afternoon, the Mayor and the city’s Police Chief sent an email stating that the mayor and chief would be unable to attend the hearing and to keep them posted about future events. Neither the Mayor nor the Police Chief offered a representative in their place to provide any information that the committee was asking for, Bain said.
During the meeting, Chairman Bain announced the committee would be issuing a subpoena to both the Jackson Mayor and the Jackson Police Chief, James Davis, to urge them to attend a hearing on November 17, 2022, at 9 a.m. to offer testimony as to their plan for address crime in the capital city.
“As such, we don’t know where the City of Jackson, the Mayor, or the Police Department, what their position is on crime in Jackson,” Bain continued. “It is imperative, and it is going to be noted today, the state of Mississippi is willing and ready to help the city of Jackson.”
“We have given him ample, given both of them ample opportunity to be here, to have a replacement here to testify,” Bain said. “I want it to be noted that we are willing and ready and able to help the city of Jackson and that’s why we’re taking the steps that we are.”
Shortly after the committee was told that Jackson Police Chief Davis would no longer be able to testify during the hearing today, Davis arrived at the meeting to speak.
Jackson Chief of Police Davis offered his testimony and said crime is multi-faceted.
“Like other major cities across America since the pandemic, we have seen a surge in violent crime all across America not just Jackson, Mississippi,” Davis said.
Davis said there are three Cs to the criminal justice system: cops, court, and correction. When the justice system is disturbed or broken, Davis said, ‘street justice’ rises up. Yet, the Chief says Jackson police are working.
“We have made over 4,000 arrests, so we are working,” Davis said. “We have made over 1,200 felony arrests and 2,850 misdemeanor arrests.”
The Jackson Chief of Police said over the last few years, the JPD has been plagued by not having a holding facility. As a result, they had to release many people.
Davis said when the community feels like there are no consequences, that becomes a problem for the community and for officers because Jackson law enforcement needs the necessary tools any major city needs to enforce the law.
Chief Davis suggested creating a crime lab in Jackson to address crimes in the capital city as well as “tapping” into technology.
Tyree Jones, Hinds County Sheriff said that as the Sheriff of Hinds County, he has huge responsibilities to not just the city of Jackson, but Hinds County as a whole.
“But as it relates specifically to the city of Jackson, and crime in the city of Jackson, I think that we all know that there is a dark cloud over what I would consider the criminal activity and criminal element in the city of Jackson which has victimized several people over the last few years,” Jones said.
As the Sheriff of Hinds County, Jones said that he has dedicated resources specifically for Jackson to work collaboratively with other agencies to be able to target and address some of the criminal activity and elements as well.
Sheriff Jones said that his office has to work with other agencies to help address crime in Hinds County.
“We have to depend on others for resources and other tools we need to move forward with the criminal activity in the city of Jackson,” Jones said.
The Hinds County Sheriff said that be believes the main issue that they have been facing in Jackson is the homicide rate. Jones said the violent crimes have nearly doubled over the last few years.
Another issue the Sheriff noted was that he has recognized that there has been a rise in youth violence and pointed to the backlog of cases in the criminal justice system as well as the shortage of law enforcement personnel.
Jones said he believes that about 60% of those sitting in jail have some type of mental health issue.
Bo Luckey, Capitol Police Chief, agreed with everything Sheriff Jones said during his testimony.
“The short time I have been here as Capitol Police Chief I have noticed a lot of the same things he has mentioned,” Luckey said.
Luckey added that he has noticed what seems to be a disrespect for authority in the youth in the Jackson area. He said his officers are starting to see a lot more individuals riding around with assault rifles in their laps, making Instagram stories and TikToks as they ride around the city.
“These individuals are youth,” Luckey said. “We are looking at ways to get more actively involved in the community.”
Luckey also expressed concern on the backlog of cases in the criminal justice system.
Jody Owens, Hinds County District Attorney, said the problems are complex and there is no singular problem or solution to crime, whether it is the family unit, the absence of faith-based support, schools that need improving, economic opportunities, or an understaffed and overwhelmed criminal justice system.
Owens said that over the last couple of years, his office has been fighting for and requesting more resources from the Mississippi Legislature.
During the 2022 session, a bill was passed to temporarily give the Hinds County District Attorney’s office more special judges and new assistant District Attorneys.
Also of note at the committee hearing, Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice Mike Randolph announced that Hinds County will have its own Mental Health Court Judge, Faye Peterson.