Commissioner: Jackson Turned Down Offer to Pay Officers

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Jackson, Miss. – While the battle for the Jackson Police Department to provide security at the Mississippi state fair continues, Agriculture and Commerce Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith opened up about discussions with the City of Jackson, “The fair commission made offers to independently contract with off duty JPD officers for traffic and patrolling to supplement the JPD presence. The offer was refused by the city.” That’s the same deal offered to off-duty Hinds County deputies who patrol on the fairgrounds. Hyde-Smith says the fair commission does not have authority to pay the city for on duty officers, “It is against the law.”

Hyde-Smith says, after three meetings with the city, the fair commission felt it had no choice but to file a lawsuit. A spokesperson for the city along with the city attorney told us today they would not comment on this. Likewise, Police Chief Lee Vance would not comment — but in the past has told us the department footed the $320,000 bill directly out of their overtime budget and they cannot afford to do that again this year in the face of budget cuts and hiring freezes. Councilman Kenneth stokes agrees, “How in the world did the fair commission not get the memo that the city doesn’t have money to pay overtime to police officers.”

Hyde smith says the city asked for $325,000 for its services. Without payment, JPD says they will provide no more than one patrol officer – the norm for day to day operations. But Hyde-Smith also noted that 18.5% of sales tax from the fairgrounds goes to the city of Jackson annually. The fair earns $3 million a year. Hyde smith says that money should pay for JPD’s services.

WJTV reached out to Governor Phil Bryant’s office for comment. They responded with this statement: “The governor’s office has been working closely with Commissioner Cindy Hyde Smith for several weeks on possibilities to assist the state fair with its security needs. We will continue to work with her office.”

A hearing in the lawsuit against the City of Jackson will be held Tuesday at 9am.

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