The Mississippi Republican-led, majority-white Legislature is expected to pass a Bill Friday, which will expand the territory of a state-run police department inside the capital city of Jackson.
The bill, House Bill 1020, would not only expand areas of Jackson patrolled by a state-run Capitol Police force but also create a new court system with judges that are appointed rather than elected by voters. All appointments would be handled by white state officials.
Once the bill is passed by the House, it will be sent to Republican Gov. Tate Reeves for approval.
During the Senate chamber debate Thursday, Democrats condemned the bill, but to a full chamber of empty seats, as Republicans had already left.
“It’s essentially (creating) a police state right here in the city of Jackson,” Democratic Sen. Barbara Blackmon, who is Black, told AP.
But city lawmakers aren’t the only ones fearful of what more police in Jackson could do to the majority-Black community already riddled with gun violence.
“That terrifies me,” Arkela Lewis, the mother of Jaylen Lewis, a young Black man killed by Mississippi’s Capitol Police, told AP. It also angers me.”
Supporters of the bill claim it has nothing to do with race and point to Jackson’s crime problem as to why this bill is a good idea.
This is not about race,” Republican Sen. Brice Wiggins told AP. “This has truly been about helping the citizens of Jackson in a time of need.”
Jackson, Mississippi is more than 80% percent Black, arguably the Blackest city percentage-wise in the United States. Sadly, 33.8% of the state’s Black population lives below the poverty line.
Below is a breakdown of how House Bill 1020 would work:
Despite local voters electing judges and prosecutors, the white chief justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court would appoint judges to oversee a new district within the city.
Judges would also not be required to live in Jackson or the county where it’s located.
According to AP, the court would have the same power as municipal courts, which handle misdemeanor cases, traffic violations and initial appearances for some criminal charges.
The white state public safety commissioner would then oversee an expanded Capitol Police force, run currently by a white chief.
House Bill 1020 would also double the funding for the district to $20 million to help increase the size of the Capitol police force in the state.
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