‘Call Our Actions Jim Crow’: Mississippi’s Republican Gov. Slams ‘Cries of Racism’ After Signing Law to Allow State Police to Patrol Majority-Black City, NAACP Claps Back with Lawsuit

After the Republican governor of Mississippi said it was imperative that the state controls local policing in violent cities like Jackson, the NAACP has filed a lawsuit to block the move claiming it would result in a return to a “separate but unequal” state.

The NAACP filed a lawsuit against Gov. Tate Reeves and other state officials claiming a decision to expand state criminal justice jurisdiction in the state capital violates the civil rights of Black residents in the city of Jackson.

Mississippi's Republican Gov. Slams 'Cries of Racism' After Signing Law to Allow State Police to Patrol Majority-Black City, NAACP Claps Back with Lawsuit
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, left, and NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson, right. (Photos: Getty Images/Twitter/Derrick Johnson)

The complaint, which was filed on Friday, April 21 and obtained by Atlanta Black Star, alleges the new law would target Jacksonians “on the basis of race.” It also states it would set up a culture “for a separate and unequal policing structure and criminal justice system to which no other residents of the State are subjected.”

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The lawsuit came out on the same day Reeves signed the bill into law.

Jackson is the state’s capital and is where the governor’s office is located. It also is a predominantly Black city.

Reeves believes he needs to expand the reach of Capitol Police to patrol the city because of the massive waves of violence the city experiences.

Jackson is among one of the most dangerous cities in the nation. In 2022, the city had 138 homicides, a rate that according to WLBT surpassed every major city in the U.S. While the murder numbers dropped 14 percent from 2021, this is the second consecutive year that the city topped other big cities in the country.

In 2021, while the country was still in the throes of COVID-19, 160 people were murdered, making it the deadliest year in Jackson’s history, according to records from the FBI, the Jackson Police Department, and the Murder Accountability Project.

With these statistics in mind, Reeves not only wants the state police to expand their reach in the city but also wants to appoint judges to handle those cops’ cases — which advocates claim will disenfranchise voters because duly-elected judges won’t hear those cases.

The law will set up a temporary court within a Capitol Complex Improvement District to serve a portion of Jackson.

This court will assume the authority of the municipal court, which is elected, handling misdemeanor cases, traffic violations, and initial appearances for some criminal charges.

Those who are convicted in the Capitol Complex Improvement District Court, who would typically be sent to a local city or county jail, could be sent to a state prison instead.

The judge would be appointed by the Mississippi Supreme Court chief justice and not be required to live in Jackson, as per the governor’s outline.

“We’re working to address it, and when we do, we’re met with overwhelming false cries of racism and mainstream media who falsely call our actions ‘Jim Crow,’” Reeves said in a statement Friday.

One of the people the governor is referencing is Derrick Johnson, the NAACP national president and a Jackson resident. He has said the legislation would designate Black people as being “second-class citizens.” He also initiated the lawsuit on behalf of the civil rights group.

The complaint aims to show how these citizens would be relegated to “second-class.”

“In certain areas of Jackson, a citizen can be arrested by a police department led by a State-appointed official, be charged by a State-appointed prosecutor, be tried before a State-appointed judge, and be sentenced to imprisonment in a State penitentiary regardless of the severity of the act,” the claim states.

Within the lawsuit are multiple instances where Black Mississippians have been disenfranchised by the criminal justice system, pointing to the disproportionate number of African-Americans in prisons compared to their white counterparts. For the NAACP, the idea is that people from outside the community have a systemic bias toward the community.

“Amidst these stark racial disparities, the policing takeover provision targets the largest Black population in the State of Mississippi for policing by a force entirely unaccountable to that population,” the lawsuit says, later adding, “Any argument that doubling the Capitol Police’s primary geographic jurisdiction from 8.7 to roughly 17.5 square miles and giving that department jurisdiction over Jackson’s residential neighborhoods will somehow be advantageous to the Black residents who live nowhere near the Capitol Complex and have little or no contact with it is disingenuous.”

It is also the NAACP’s belief that financially the expansion will disrupt community funding and programs already allocated by the officials elected to represent them.

The lawyers want the federal court to step in and declare the law that the governor and the Republican legislature passed as racially discriminatory and to enjoin the Capitol Police’s authority and CCID court to effectively cover all of the city of Jackson.

The Justice Department has a little over 90 days to take action. The expanded jurisdiction for the Capitol Police is set to begin on July 1.

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