Lawsuit Filed by 21 Current and Former Jackson Officers Against Department, Chief, and Mayor
Jackson, MS – The Jackson Police Department, Chief James Davis, and Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba are all named in a current lawsuit filed by 21 former and current police officers. The officers allege harassment, racial profiling, and poor working conditions by the command staff.
The officers’ attorney, Attorney Abby Robinson, said Chief James Davis and his command staff were responsible for the hostile environment, and that they faced harsh criticism from petty things up to what they wore. The command staff allowed multiple shifts to go without sanitized bathrooms, as well as denied proper aid all because of their race or gender. Robinson said these conditions likely explain why the department is so short staffed.
Robinson told local CBS news affiliate WJTV, “Presumably to these plaintiffs the morale at the Jackson Police Department is lower than it’s ever been. The City of Jackson police department needs help.”
In May of this year, the Jackson Police Department was accused of attempting a cover up for Mark Coleman, a 57-year-old former officer who was accused of enticement of a minor, as well as destroying, concealing and impeding the investigation.
Chief Davis said at the time that the department was treating the case like any other case. The alleged victim’s attorney, Lisa Ross, said that someone at the department asked the judge in the case for favors after Coleman was released on an unsecured bond, which Davis denied.
In July, Coleman was indicted for the crimes. The beginning of this lawsuit started over this incident, where three females were allegedly pressured to take a lie detector test over releasing information deemed public through open records. Allegedly, officers were prevented from disclosing public information, which “fostered a demeaning and unprofessional environment.”
Of this incident, Robinson said, “One lady which was a detention officer at the jail was terminated because of that,” Attorney Robinson continued. “Because only they believe through a polygraph test that she provided the media with information. So, for the Chief of Police to send a written memo saying do not talk on these matters put the officers in a position to lie to the public.”
Allegedly, male officers have been accused of worse violations without termination. The lawsuit also says that female detectives were left without access to a bathroom or proper lighting at night while forced to guard the city impound lot. Robinson said of this, “There were none, no one came to let them go to the restroom so they had to resort to a third world country style and use the bathroom in public. There was a building there but it was locked and no one putting them on duty gave them a key.”
Reportedly, there is also racial discrimination and harassment at the department, with white officers being the victims. Allegedly, a female detective and white officers were forced by current and former commanders to tamper with evidence One example given was recovering a revolver on a scene from another officer. Another was marking an intoxicated pedestrian as at fault when hit by a driver.
“One of the white female plaintiffs,” Robinson said, “who is likely right now the only crime scene investigator there who was just criticized because she wouldn’t say things regarding a case the way the Chief of Police wanted it. Then I have another white male he’s naming incidents back in another administration who asked him to change records of who committed the crime.”
Robinson alleges that female officers have been “retaliated against,” and also denied promotions and specialty position due to their genders. Chief Davis is also accused of bullying a gay officer at his orientation.
Former officer Myron Smith is one of the plaintiffs, who Robinson said was fired without due process. The incident Smith is said to be fired over is grabbing a subject by the neck during a confrontation.
Further, Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba is accused of taking over $200,000 from JPD’s budget to pay for his own private bodyguards and SUVs. Apparently, Lumumba has a history of shady financial dealings. In 2017, questions arose on his donations for his election campaign. Among other issues, Lumumba did not have proper logs of donors, including their addresses not being disclosed as required by state law.
Even when the report was returned with instructions to correct the log, Lumumba still left 27 donors’ addresses off the list. The total raised from those donors were upwards of $23,000. His reasoning for this was the fact that his campaign utilized Paypal on his website, which does not require a location.
He said he was attempting to “track down” those who donated to be in compliance. After the campaign, he started an account with ActBlue. ActBlue is, according to its website, “an American nonprofit technology organization established in June 2004 that enables left-leaning nonprofits, Democratic candidates, and progressive groups to raise money from individual donors on the Internet by providing them with online fundraising software.”
ActBlue has also been connected to Black Lives Matter.
Despite the questions, and the large amount of funding raised outside of Mississippi, Lumumba commented at the time, “We believe it demonstrates the excitement across the globe about a different ideal of governance. People have been crying for something that is structured in this way, so people are responding to it and encouraging that Jackson become the most progressive city in the country.” Lumumba also failed to file the required statement of economic interest in time, which reports his business interests.
According to the National League of Cities, Lumumba is responsible for, “Strengthening community oversight of the police including establishing Mississippi’s first policy on releasing the names of officers involved in shootings, banning excessive force (including choke holds, strangleholds, knees on the neck, etc.) and requiring officers to intervene and stop other officers from using excessive force and report any such actions to a supervisor.”
He has also made it a policy that mugshots of juveniles would not be released to the public, in addition to mugshots of suspects shot by police. At the time of the decision, Lumumba said, “Mugshots and sensationalized news narratives create lasting impressions that adversely impact communities and widen the historic divide between police and community.”
He continued on the subject, saying that family members should get to release the image of the person shot by police. He said, “The last image of any person should not be on the worst day of their life or the worst image that we could possibly provide of them. In a day and age, when we have accessibility to images of individuals through social media and everything else, we can go the extra mile to find an image that gives respect to those individuals that are no longer living on this earth.”
In 2018, The Jackson Free Press published an article on Lumumba, titled “The Antar Era: 365 Days of Building a ‘Radical’ Foundation.” It said, “I think also our willingness to embrace radical instead of running away from it is something that the country is kind of in this curious space where, whether you’re considered far-left or far-right, we’re exploring change…Sometimes I realize that a lot of what we’ve been dealing with in our first year—there have been some radical things here and there—but to me they seem very basic and standard. But we’re only scratching the surface right now.”
While no defendants in the suit have made any statements, Chief Davis said in July, when it was first announced that a lawsuit was pending, that the entire suit was “completely false.” He said, “All of those other complaints are untrue. They’re absolutely false. I have never heard of some of these individuals.”
Davis also said that attorney Robinson’s husband, former assistant chief Ricky Robinson, was demoted to sergeant days prior to the lawsuit being announced. In July, Davis said, “What’s the motive? You have an assistant chief who is demoted and then a lawsuit is filed from his wife’s law firm. These are personnel issues. How would a law firm know about personnel issues.”
The Equal Employment Opportunity Center cleared all 21 plaintiffs to hire lawyers and sue those named on the lawsuit against Jackson officials.