ACLU of Mississippi Sues Madison County Sheriff’s Department; Unconstitutional Policing

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Attorney Jonathan Youngwood, left, co-counsel with the ACLU of Mississippi, discusses their lawsuit on behalf of 10 plaintiffs suing the Madison County Sheriff's Department, challenging what they believe are unconstitutional policing policies of black residents in the Jackson suburb of Madison County, at a news conference in Jackson, Miss., Monday, May 8, 2017. Seated next to him are Quinnetta Manning, second from left, and Steven Smith, both plaintiffs from Madison County, and attorney Paloma Wu, legal director of the ACLU of Mississippi, right. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Mississippi is suing Madison County sheriff’s department, accusing them of unconstitutionally policing and unfairly targeting African-Americans.

Madison County is the northern-most county that encompasses Jackson, Mississippi – the capital city. Jackson’s population as a whole is predominately African American. According to the latest census, 79.4 percent of people in Jackson identify as Black or African American, while 18.4 percent identify as White.

Jackson, Mississippi – Image via ProximityOne

However, Madison County has a predominately white population. So when the ACLU found out that Black people are almost five-times more likely than White people to be arrested in Madison County they decided to investigate.

In their federal lawsuit the Mississippi ACLU accuses law enforcement in Madison of running a “top-down program” where they target Black communities using unconstitutional policing tactics like, “show-ID-and-search pedestrian checkpoints, roving roadblocks, ‘jump outs’ by plainclothes deputies in unmarked cars, and warrantless home invasions,” a release from the ACLU stated.

Madison County’s population is 38 percent Black, however, Black residents made up for 73 percent of arrests made between May and October of 2016, the ACLU claimed.

“The Madison County Sheriff’s Department routinely targets Black people through widespread stops, searches, and arrests that are not based on reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, but on race,” the ACLU’s release stated. “These practices frequently use unjustified and excessive force.”

The lawsuit also specifically accuses Madison County Sheriff Randy Tucker of some fairly egregious crimes. It accuses him of: enacting or upholding a written roadblock policy that promotes roadblocks based on race; not investigating a black deputy’s complaint or racially discriminatory policing practices and use of excessive force against African-Americans; hiring a deputy with a history of misconduct; not establishing any rules to prohibit racial bias; deciding not to maintain basic data on the department’s policing practices, such as dates and locations of roadblocks; and not keeping records of complaints against his deputies.

Sheriff Randy Tucker – Image via Madison County Sheriff’s Department

On one occasion, Quinnetta Manning, one of the plaintiffs in the case, claims Madison County sheriff deputies rushed into her home in the early hours of June 26, 2016. Police had no right to go inside of Manning’s home, however, they forced themselves in and proceeded to threaten her and her husband Khadafy, who is disabled – with jail time if they did not comply and submit false witness statements.

The couple refused so deputies handcuffed Manning’s husband, choking him while calling him derogatory names relating to his disability. Luckily Quinnette was able to record some of the altercation on her cell phone.

“I know that every American citizen has rights, but the Madison County police treated us like we didn’t have any rights,” Manning said. “Taking my husband away from our home not only embarrassed him, but made us feel less than American. How can we show our children that we can protect them and keep them safe when the police can just come in my house whenever they want without cause? Now I’m scared to leave the house in fear of what may happen if I encounter the police.”

Quinnetta Manning Image via ACLU Mississippi

The ACLU of Mississippi is working alongside international law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP, which is headquartered in New York City. The ALCU claims that the practices and tactics used by the Madison County sheriffs violate both the Fourth Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Unfortunately, police departments have been using racist and unconstitutional policing methods since their inception, and it is obviously still a problem. Back in 2015, The United States Department of Justice found that the police department in Ferguson, Missouri used policing tactics that often violated the rights of Black Americans.

Racism within American police forces is one of the most difficult situations at hand in this country. However, thankfully, there are groups like the ACLU and the Department of Justice, who are working to expose the problem.

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