In this primary election season, which concludes Aug. 4 with Democratic and Republic primaries that are likely to decide the outcomes of the November elections, like all elections, the issue of crime has come into sharp focus.
Many candidates, no matter the office they seek, shape their entire platforms around crime so, naturally, law and order is the central issue in the races for Hinds County sheriff and district attorney.
In the race for sheriff, incumbent Tyrone Lewis is looking to hold on to his post against fellow longtime lawman Victor Mason. We decline to endorse in this race. We cannot endorse Lewis not just because the Raymond Detention Center and downtown jails keep ending up in the headlines after daring escapes, but because he hasn't come up with a real plan to address it.
And if he plans to beat Lewis, Mason, who is just getting his feet in electoral politics, hasn't seemed to form the kind of organization that can pull it off. In short, Lewis can't seem to get a handle on the county jail; Mason can't seem to manage his campaign in a way that instill confidence that he can run one of the state's largest law-enforcement agencies.
Of course, the problems with the jail are not the creation of the current sheriff and are part of a complicated matrix that includes the police, the courts and the district attorney's office. Eight years ago, a 36-year-old Robert Shuler Smith was swept to victory by making some big promises to change the way the district attorney's office was run, but those promises have yet to come to fruition.
Like many other members of the public, the DA's office's mishandling of high-profile cases, such as the investigation into the death of police officer R.J. Washington, erodes our confidence even further.
We started getting to know Stanley Alexander, Smith's challenger, when he was an assistant DA under Faye Peterson and helped prosecute then-Mayor Frank Melton, and he always struck us as up to the task of running the office. Alexander also combines a tough-enough law-and-order ethos with compassion for first-time nonviolent offenders. Based on our observations over the years, Alexander would likely run a tighter ship, hire well, restore a strong work ethic, and communicate more effectively with the public and the media than Smith.
Of course, we acknowledge that criminal justice moves slowly and that Smith and his office aren't entirely to blame for the problems in Hinds County's criminal-justice system—but Smith also can't throw up his hands in submission and blame other people.
For these reasons, we endorse Stan Alexander for Hinds County district attorney.