"The Strange Case of the JPOA Endorsement" by Politics Blog | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Politics Blog

The Strange Case of the JPOA Endorsement

In a week that can't get any better, not even an story on an endorsement can be lame.

The Jackson Police Officers Association announced yesterday their endorsement of mayoral candidate and former south Jackson business owner Jonathan Lee.

Lee was hailed by that group's president, Earnest Perry, as a "visionary" and "a strong leader with a willingness to work with local and state government."

Reached by phone on Monday, Perry backed up sentiment in the groups press release that the interview process was thorough, and that five candidates (Lee, Regina Quinn, Robert Amos, Chokwe Lumumba and Harvey Johnson, Jr.) were interviewed. He called Johnson's interview "intensive."

The problem is, Earnest Perry is not a police officer. He was a JPD detective until 2009, when then-chief Malcolm McMillan transferred him because he violated city policy regarding Fuelman, though no charges were ever filed against him.

In response to the JPOAs endorsement announcement Monday, the campaign to re-elect Harvey Johnson, Jr. released this statement minutes ago:

"Recently, our campaign, along with other candidates for mayor, was invited to meet with the Jackson Police Officer Association (JPOA). The meeting was presided over by a person who is no longer an active police officer and recently separated from the department. The tone of the meeting made me very uncomfortable, as it became clear that in order to receive an endorsement of my candidacy, I would have to specifically agree to change the command staff and management at JPD. It is not unreasonable to believe that the candidate for mayor that the group endorsed agreed to those demands. As Mayor and as a candidate for mayor I simply cannot permit the sound administration of JPD to become the product of a backroom political deal.

"JPOA is not the same organization I have known and recognized over the years. It is now comprised of less than 10% of JPD’s rank and file officers. A disproportionate number of the officers in this group, having been disciplined for various infractions, appear to be disgruntled with the more rigorous standards implemented by our command staff. The vast number of officers, however, are successfully meeting the challenges associated with a large paramilitary organization operating in an urban environment. This administration will continue to strive to make JPD the best law enforcement agency in the region by insuring that our officers are well trained, equipped, compensated, and likewise treated fairly in their work assignments."

On Monday, Perry described the group that did the interviews as "very diverse," and said it was made up of 10 panelists from various backgrounds, including a fire department union member, a city worker union member, a neighborhood watch president, and local businessmen and lawyers.

Lee did not immediately return phone calls Tuesday afternoon.

Comments

donnaladd 5 years, 4 months ago

I just hung up from talking to Earnest Perry. Here is what he said.

Perry is not a police officer; he retired from JPD March 2012. He said he gets full benefits. The police union hired him in a paid position in August 2012.

Perry said his role in the Fuelman controversy "started with Malcolm McMillin." He said that the former sheriff/chief, along with then-Councilman (Jeff) Weill investigated him because Fuelman records didn't add up, and he was in charge of them.

"I was the manager over vehicle management. They launched an investigation for some reason before they even talked to me.... For two years, two entire years, I was at home on administrative leave with pay while the investigation was going on. When Chief (Rebecca) Coleman took the seat, somebody whispered in her ear, we got a guy off over here for two years, we've got to do something about him. When they called me back, (they) didn't find criminal activity. They said it was administrative mismanagement; gave me 90 days without pay this time. … I contested, of course. Before we went to the (civil service) hearing, 6 or 7 months later, I was called back in. They said they'd drop it, pay me the 90 days back and we're not going to worry about it.

"During that time, I was back at work. For some reason, Chief Coleman and I bumped heads again. She tried to put me in the jail to work against doctor's orders… so I retired (with medical retirement)."

"When asked why he and the current chief bumped heads, he said: "I don't know … I have no idea. She just moved me; I was working in an administrative position downtown. She saw me one idea and the next day she said I need to go work in the jail. … I don’t have another place for you (,Coleman said)… (I said) we'll see what my doctor says."

"Here I am now, happily retired. I get full retirement and benefits. I was on the force for 20 years."

Perry said that at last count, the union had 120 paid members. All were givem opportunity to be part of endorsement interviews. Needed 15 members … quorum. Reached out to 60 percent of the members, he said; the majority was in favor of the Jonathan Lee endorsement. "Majority rules," he said.

Also: WLBT on Fuelman

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donnaladd 5 years, 4 months ago

MORE:

Perry said 16 police and fire officers and he interviewed each of the front runners. He said no deal was presented to endorse a candidate if they agreed to appoint a particular person as chief (as a different campaign has told us happened). He said no named person was discussed. He said the only name came up was when Johnson said he would keep Rebecca Coleman as chief.

They did, however, emphasis that management needed to be changed, Perry said. "I would say emphasis was put as far as that. The overall change, according to consensus of the union, we think need new management from the mayor all the way down; even city council needs to be changed."

The group voted to endorse Lee, he said, because he is only one with a "definitive plan," but that Lee "didn't make any promises. He had a plan how he would get certain things done." "(Lee) said he would look at the management; everybody would be interviewed. He would give the union a seat at the table (for hiring new command staff).

Perry said any police officer can be a paid member of the union for $25 a month, and it's payroll deductible.

He also confirmed that he was part of a separate group, organized by former union head Juan Cloy, that identified several of the candidates, but that chose not to interview Johnson. "I was part of the other group, several different entities, Brenda Scott (of the city employees' union) and the whole nine yards. We didn't interview Johnson." That group is also endorsing Lee.

Perry denied the contentions of two different campaigns that a backroom deal was made with Lee. "I don't remember a statement like that. ... There wasn't a deal made.

"The final question was: Are he satisified with Chief Coleman as chief? Does he plan on keeping her? He couldn't discuss. Nobody responded to that."

He said Regina Quinn responded to a question denying a rumor that she was going to make Tyrone Lewis chief and sheriff, as had happened with Malcolm McMillin. "She said no, no intention of doing that all. That was the only name that came up in reference to the chief."

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DUCKEE 5 years, 4 months ago

The city worker's union hasn't done an endorsement. I am a member and attended the Mayoral Forum they had on April 18th. Many in the room were Lumumba supporters, however they were greatful that Mayor Johnson chose to work with them during his term. It appears that this guy is trying to throw someone else under the bus to validate himself. The city worker's union chose not to do any endorsement.

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donnaladd 5 years, 4 months ago

I've asked for recordings of all the interviews, by the way. Will keep y'all posted.

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Tom_Head 5 years, 4 months ago

Two questions come to mind:

- Is our mayor saying that 90% of JPD isn't unionized? Assuming that's true (and I have no reason to believe otherwise), that isn't good news for a lot of reasons. (Undercuts JPOA's credibility, certainly, but it also makes me wonder who's looking out for the officers.)

- My understanding is that Chief Coleman plans to retire later this year anyway (assuming that's when her initial four years are up). If that's still the case, isn't a change in JPD administration pretty much inevitable? Why is JPOA pushing to replace a chief who will have retired before the next mayoral administration, regardless of the outcome of the election?

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donnaladd 5 years, 4 months ago

My impression is they want to help pick the chief. It's classic union-vs.-management politics, it seems.

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Tom_Head 5 years, 4 months ago

Could there be any connection between Perry and Bluntson's cryptic comment about having already promised the police chief spot to someone who used to work for the department?

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