A post on the NextDoor neighborhood website today revealed that the City of Jackson may change its policy and require that the Jackson Police Department start releasing names of the officers involved in a shooting within 72 hours, a best-practices period that the Jackson Free Press has supported in recent editorials.
JPD officers have been involved in at least seven shootings since Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba took office last July, promising criminal-justice reform. JPD has not released the names of any of those officers who fired on civilians, leading to several deaths, nor detailed the circumstances of those shootings. The department cites the need for officer safety.
In the NextDoor post, a participant related that a JPD commander is asking citizens to push back against revealing the officers' names.
"[P]lease come to the (JPD headquarters downtown) tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. and the City Council Meeting at 6:00 p.m.," the post stated. "The city has proposed releasing the names of all officers involved in a shooting within 72 hours. The police are very against this. They and their families get death threats immediately from family and friends of the person who was shot. This is before the investigation into whether the shooting was justified or not. Frankly, this only enflames already heated emotions and puts our officers and their families at grave risk. If you're concerned for the safety of our officers, please come to the meetings. The Chief will explain their position at 11:00 and hopes we will all go to the Council to express our support for them."
JPD headquarters is at 327 Pascagoula St., near City Hall.
JFP city reporter Ko Bragg has reported that civilians, including family members of people killed by police, are demanding more transparency about the shootings.
In 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice advised police departments to release names of officers involved in critical events, including shootings, within 72 hours of the incident. Some cities release them as soon as 48 hours after the shooting. The DOJ report said that departments can take steps to ensure officer safety during those brief delays.
Lumumba recently announced that JPD would no longer release mugshots of people shot by police, after JPD sent out a blurry mugshot of an unarmed woman killed after at least one officer shot into her car and gave other media details of her minor police record. He also said JPD would no longer release mugshots of juveniles in custody, after an investigation by the Jackson Free Press of the practice.
The mayor also told the Jackson Free Press that is against JPD setting up "perp walks" of juveniles so that media can get photographs and footage of the accused children who are already in custody and are often later moved back to the juvenile-detention center where they are not available to the media. The Jackson Free Press also learned that juveniles charged as adults are often sitting in the detention center for 180 days without being indicted.
After this article appeared March 26, the mayor's office sent out the following statement early the next morning, announcing the task force. The full statement follows:
"The Jackson Police Department is committed to serving and protecting all Jackson residents and holds its officers to the highest standards of conduct. When officer-involved shootings do occur, accountability to the public and for the safety of officers is a primary concern. JPD has a long-standing practice of not releasing the names of officers involved in shootings during the performance of their duties. This practice was designed to ensure the safety of officers and their families and to enable the department to more efficiently conduct its investigation of the incident.
"We recognize that this practice can be difficult for victims and their loved ones involved in these incidents. Due to recent concerns raised about the lack of transparency inherent to this practice, Mayor Lumumba is establishing a task force to address the formation of JPD policy that will govern the release of names, and the timeframe during which this should take place. Specifically, the Task Force will be made up of citizens, officers and members of his administration who are charged with establishing policy that keeps in mind both sensitivity to community concerns as well as an understanding of the unique responsibilities and safety of law enforcement. We expect that this process will yield a policy that works for all stakeholders.
"We have confidence and trust in JPD—and we are indeed concerned with the frequency of officer- involved shootings. The loss of life is always tragic, and it is imperative that our policy reflect our genuine concern for the safety of everyone. We truly believe that through the work and deliberation of this task force, we will be able to strengthen the bonds between our officers and the communities they serve, while simultaneously building the transparency and trust necessary to move our great City forward."
NOTE: The NextDoor commenter later changed the location of the 11 a.m. Tuesday meeting with police about the new identification policy from the Fondren precinct to JPD headquarters downtown at 327 Pascagoula St. The change is reflected above.
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