JPD Officers Allege Sexism, Racism, More in Lawsuit Against Mayor, Police Chief | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

JPD Officers Allege Sexism, Racism, More in Lawsuit Against Mayor, Police Chief

Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba and Jackson Police Department Chief James Davis are facing a civil suit filed by 21 former and current members of the police force. Photo courtesy City of Jackson

Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba and Jackson Police Department Chief James Davis are facing a civil suit filed by 21 former and current members of the police force. Photo courtesy City of Jackson

Former and current Jackson Police Department officers have accused Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba and Police Chief James Davis of abuse of office, infringement of civil rights, fostering a poor work environment and discrimination in a lawsuit that attorney Abby Johnson filed last week at the Southern District of Mississippi District Court. It was first reported Thursday by WJTV.

One of the 21 plaintiffs, Uconda Carter, accused Davis of wrongful termination purportedly on the accusation that she released the mugshot of an officer, Mark Coleman, arrested earlier in the year, to the media.

"Furthermore, Plaintiff Uco[n]da Carter will show the original termination letter from chief James Davis where it appears that a committee recommended for her to receive 30 days off but liquid white out was placed over it and the words 'terminated' (put) in its place," the suit alleged. "As such Plaintiff Carter damages include showing other male officers whom when accused of greater weighing matters were not terminated and are still on JPD officers force to this date."

Other female plaintiffs claimed they were not treated the same way as their male counterparts, citing various reasons. "Even more egregious to these facts is that Officer Cassandra Thomas, the qualified and the only female policewoman seeking/sought to be SWAT TEAM member, which was all male from the years of 2018 to present was denied the opportunity to be part of JPD's ALL MALE SWAT TEAM," the suit said. "The denial of this plaintiff into the SWAT TEAM was so severe that she ended up leaving JPD in/or around September 2020 to work for a different Police Department in another County in Mississippi in hopes of excelling up the ranks fairly as men."

Accusations of Racial Discrimination

Five white plaintiffs leveled accusations of racial discrimination in the JPD, a predominantly Black police force. "Plaintiff (Keith) Freeman avers that he was not able to sustain the ill treatment of Chief James Davis to him because of his race," the brief stated.

The lawsuit accused Davis of overlooking the plaintiffs in appointments to the acting sergeant's position, which they claim attracts increased pay.

"Plaintiffs avers that there was never any attempt to fairly and properly interview other interested or qualified officers nor did these defendants even consider any other officer (who) had interest in the temporary position, and thereby violating each plaintiffs' right to due process in government especially the city of Jackson's own policy and procedures had been violated," the suit alleged.

In a statement made available to the Jackson Free Press, the city attorney's office said that the lawsuit is an abuse of the legal system, filled with unfounded accusations and is not meant to win but intimidate and harass.

"The case is without merit and is plainly a publicity stunt—undoubtedly filed during the City's election season," City Attorney Timothy Howard said. "Counsel has been admonished in this same federal court for previous baseless accusations, and it is disheartening that the court system is again being abused as a ploy to mislead the public."

"A complaint should be a short and plain statement to show that the plaintiff has a valid claim," he added. "Counsel's "statement" is more than 30 pages of inflamed rhetoric and baseless accusations."

Working With No Pay At Mississippi State Fair?

Some of the plaintiffs accused the City of Jackson and JPD of defrauding them of payment for working at the Mississippi State Fair from 2017 to 2019. On instruction, they said that they changed their scheduled day off from work into a day that they provide security for the event with no special remuneration collected.

"However, to this day, NOT even one of these plaintiffs (received) any money for the extra hours worked which each plaintiff contend that they were tricked, forced earned income converted, and deceived involuntary of a change in their normal off day so that these Defendants could not have to pay them special pay for working the Mississippi State Fair, and instead, Plaintiffs additional work would now be called their regular work hours," the suit alleges.

"However, each plaintiff avers that prior to this administration (for) any special events such as the Mississippi State Fair, they were paid for working the same as extra pay, which each Plaintiff avers was supportive of their extra income to their respective households."

They claimed they received the same treatment for the Hal’s St. Paddy's Parade and were not paid extra they claimed used to be the case in the past.

Some of the officers complained of overwork and described how that hampered their effectiveness. For example, after detective work from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., they said JPD leadership directs them to the City of Jackson impound lot to act as night security guards there. The lot impound, they claim, has no lighting, no grass-cutting maintenance and no restroom facility, which makes the duty particularly inconvenient for the women, the suit said.

Email story tips to city/county reporter Kayode Crown at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @kayodecrown.

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