Each of the five candidates gathered to answer questions at Bellwether Church in Northeast Jackson about issues ranging from education to economic development to infrastructure. From left to right, Charles Barbour, Dorsey Carson, Ashby Foot, Richard Sellers and Amile Wilson.
Photo by Trip Burns.
Everyone with hopes of securing a spot on Jackson's City Council says the city has a crime problem, but opinions about how to prevent and clean up crime varies among the five men vying for the open Ward 1 council seat.
Each of the five candidates gathered to answer questions at Bellwether Church in Northeast Jackson about issues ranging from education to economic development to infrastructure.
But restructuring the Jackson Police Department emerged as a central strand in the platforms of all the contenders in the nonpartisan special election.
Attorney Dorsey Carson and Richard Sellers, a special education teacher, stressed that improving crime rates starts with improving education. When Jackson Public School district's dropout rate is 35 percent, it's no wonder crime is so high, they said.
"You will see crime reduced when you give people opportunities," Carson said.
Carson said that following through with Alignment Jackson, a public-private partnership recently implemented in JPS, will contribute to the solution. Carson also addressed an issue with police officers not showing up in court.
"When ... you don't have police officers called to testify to the grand jury, that's a problem," Carson said.
Sellers highlighted a problem with corruption within JPD, saying that he believes Chief Lee Vance will work to weed out officers who are "not doing what they need to do."
"I think we're going to have to cut back ... and be able to find extra money," Sellers said.
Former Hinds County Supervisor Charles Barbour said Jackson needs to pay its policemen more, but Carson said Jackson police are actually paid higher than the average cop.
Still, JPD's retention rate needs improvement. Hiring young, new police officers often and having to train them, only for them to leave a few years later is expensive, Amile Wilson argued.
Wilson, a small business owner, proposed a G.I. Bill that would require police officers to stay for four years full time or six years on reserve and would pay off their in-state tuition. The bill, Wilson said, is self-funding and revenue neutral.
"There are plenty of problems with crime. Most of it goes back to there's no father in the house," Barbour said. He said he would be glad to make recommendations to the Jackson police chief, but he realizes the city council does not control JPD.
Barbour recommended recruiting more officers on reserve.
Ashby Foote, president of Vector Money Management, believes public safety is a key priority, but he said he doesn't have a specific solution to the crime problem in Jackson.
"People have to feel safe. ... It's imperative for economic-development purposes to have a safe community," Foote said.