House revives state police expansion and bitter fight over Jackson ‘takeover’

House revives state police expansion and bitter fight over Jackson ‘takeover’

The House of Representatives in a largely partisan and racially divided vote on Wednesday revived its measure to expand the area inside Jackson where state Capitol Police can patrol to include neighborhoods where the capital’s majority white citizens live.

After lengthy debate Wednesday that served to highlight the ongoing racial tension under the dome this session, the House passed Senate Bill 2343, which leaders revised with language that died earlier in the session that would have expanded police jurisdiction of the state only in a specific district within Jackson. , the largest black city in America.

The final vote was 67-45, with most whites, Republicans, and non-Jacksonians voting for it, and all black lawmakers, Democrats, and all but one member of Jackson’s delegation voting against. Some white Republicans also voted against the measure, most on the grounds that it would expand state government spending and state police powers.

Rep. Shanda Yates, a Jackson independent and the only “yes” vote from the Jackson delegation Wednesday, said her legislation aims to curb crime in northeast Jackson and help an understaffed Jackson police department.

“This is simply a response to the residents of Jackson who live in this proposed neighborhood who want more police. That’s it,” Yates said.

The Senate approved a separate measure Tuesday that would give the Capitol Police jurisdiction over the entire capitol, not just a limited district like the House measure passed Wednesday. Leaders of the two chambers will have to settle this dispute as the 2023 legislative session enters its final three weeks.

READ MORE: Senate passes House Bill 1020 over opposition from Jackson lawmakers

Meanwhile, bitter debate continues over several other measures that Jackson leaders, advocates and the national media have labeled a hostile state takeover of a majority-black city by a majority-white state legislature.

“This is the most depressing legislative session I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot of them,” said Rep. Ed Blackmon, a Canton Democrat who has served in the Legislature for 40 years. “…The uncomfortable truth is that this has nothing to do with solving the crime.”

Yates, who lives in a neighborhood already patrolled by Capitol Police after its jurisdiction was expanded last year, blasted the Jackson Police Department as overworked and understaffed during the debate. She did not directly answer several questions from her fellow Jackson lawmakers about why the state has not appropriated funds for the city’s struggling police department.

“Right now, if you call 9-1-1 in Jackson, you’re not going to get anybody at all … you’re most likely not going to get an answer,” Yates said in response to a question about the need for the bill.

Representative Zakiya Summers, a Democrat from Jackson, held up a phone during the House debate and told Yates, “We just called 9-1-1 and got an answer right away.”

“You’re in luck,” Yates replied.

READ MORE: ‘Only in Mississippi’: House votes to create white-appointed court system for America’s blackest city

Opponents of bills to take over police, infrastructure and other functions in Jackson say the state should provide the city with resources to deal with a decades-long loss of tax base, not take away its local sovereignty and create a special police force and more cordons. white areas of the city. They say lawmakers have not and will not force such measures in other cities and that such moves are a blow to black governance.

Some Jackson lawmakers continue to point out that their white colleagues pushing the legislation have not brought them to the table to discuss how to address the city’s crime problems.

Rep. Robert Johnson, the Democratic leader of the House of Representatives from Natchez, said the Capitol Police, once a small force charged mainly with security in and around state office buildings downtown, has no homicide detectives, detention facilities, a system 9-1-1 or other infrastructure to control one-third of Mississippi’s largest city. He said the agency will ask lawmakers for millions of taxpayer dollars to increase its presence and existing processes — funds he argued should go to the city or elsewhere in the state budget.

Proponents of the bills, however, say the state is trying to help with rising crime rates, water and sanitation and other issues that have reached crisis levels.

During the Capitol Police debate of her measure on Wednesday, Yates called it a “last ditch effort.”

“I have constituents who are going to leave Jackson,” she said.

READ MORE: Constitutionality of House Bill 1020 comes into focus

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