JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – Since May of 2017, the Mississippi ACLU and Madison County Sheriff’s Office have been in a legal battle over a lawsuit accusing deputies in the county of racial profiling.
But this week both sides reached a settlement which requires changes to how the sheriff’s office patrols the streets.
The settlement comes down to policy changes to how and where deputies can set up roadblocks and stop pedestrians to search while implementing new training methods to perform these approaches so no minorities feel targeted.
Following an hour and a half of briefings and answering questions, federal judge Carlton Reeves agreed to approve the settlement in the Mississippi ACLU’s lawsuit against Madison County Sheriffs Office.
“We are looking forward to the promise of change that the agreement tries to ensure,” Attorney Lawrence Blackmon told us.
The ACLU and locals in Madison County accuse the sheriff’s office of excessively setting up roadblocks and stopping people in predominantly African American neighborhoods without probable cause or suspicion.
“This policy first forbids the Madison County Sheriffs Department from placing roadblocks near 14 specified apartment complexes within a quarter-mile,” Attorney Johnathon Younwood explained.
“Basically living under the thumb of the Madison County Sheriffs Department,” Blackmon described. “And their practices and procedures that were racially motivated and unconstitutional.”
According to the last census, Madison County has only a 38% African American population, yet blacks make up 77% of those arrested and 3/4 of citations.
“The Madison County Sheriffs Department is permitted to put up roadblocks,” Youngwood said. “But they have to in doing so specify specific objective reasons for their placement and their placement cannot be tied to race.”
The agreement also brings back a Community Advisory Board which puts a committee in place to hear public complaints and launch investigations into unconstitutional policing by the department.
“Each member of the Madison County Board of Supervisors will appoint a representative to the board,” Youngwood stated. “The board will meet quarterly, the board will have open sessions, and be in charge of working with the sheriff’s department to ensure the terms of the consent decree put in place are kept in place.”
Sheriff Randy Tucker released a statement following the settlement hearing saying, “We successfully defended the plaintiff’s attempt to make this a class action, the loss of services and to our citizens and cost of defending a second complaint was the deciding factor in this settlement. We have agreed to document more information I feel will show this administration does not target or profile any race.”
Other new terms include annual performance evaluations and data on people stopped by deputies. The resolutions in this settlement are supposed to last four years before being revisited.