LEXINGTON, Miss. (WJTV) – Officials with the Justice Department announced they have opened a civil pattern or practice investigation into the City of Lexington, Mississippi, and the Lexington Police Department (LPD).

According to officials, the investigation will seek to determine whether there are systemic violations of the Constitution and federal law. They said the focus will be on the police department’s use of force and its stops, searches and arrests. It will assess whether those activities are reasonable, non-discriminatory and respect the right to engage in speech and conduct protected by the First Amendment.

“No city, no town and no law enforcement agency is too large or too small to evade our enforcement of the constitutional rights every American enjoys,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “We are opening this investigation to determine whether the Lexington Police Department engages in a pattern or practice of discriminatory policing, excessive force or First Amendment violations. This investigation should send a clear message to small and mid-size police departments that they are not exempt from the obligation to provide fair, effective and non-discriminatory policing. We will leave no community behind, including underserved regions in the Deep South, in our quest to ensure lawful and constitutional policing in America.”

Officials with the Justice Department said Lexington officials were notified before the announcement on Wednesday, November 8. According to the Justice Department, Lexington officials pledge to cooperate with the investigation.

As part of this investigation, the Justice Department will conduct outreach to community groups and members of the public to learn about their experiences with LPD.

The Special Litigation Section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi will jointly conduct this investigation pursuant to the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which prohibits state and local governments from engaging in a pattern or practice of conduct by law enforcement officers that deprives people of rights protected by the Constitution or federal law.

Individuals with relevant information can contact the Justice Department via email at Community.LexingtonMS@usdoj.gov or by phone at (833) 610-1232. Individuals can also report civil rights violations regarding this or other matters using the reporting portal of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division at www.civilrights.justice.gov. 

Individuals can also report civil rights violations to the U.S. Attorney’s Office at USAMSS.civilrights@usdoj.gov or (601) 973-2825.

A public meeting will be held on November 8, 2023, at 5:00 p.m. CT at St. Paul COGIC Fellowship Hall in Lexington. Members of the public are encouraged to attend to learn more about the investigation.