Policing plan unfolded by Tate Reeves helpful but inadequate

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Last week, Governor Tate Reeves, standing with members of the state highway patrol and the Capitol Police, announced a proposal that would put more state police officers on the streets of Jackson and arrange for greater use of radar and narcotics investigators in the city. He indicated that House Bill 974 and Senate Bill 2788, both of which he has signed into law, give the legal authority to the effort.

It is significant that there were no members from the City of Jackson or its police department nor from Hinds County or its sheriff’s department, since the governor indicated that there had been discussions and an agreement with them. The absence of those two entities loomed even larger as a result of the statement later issued by Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba, complaining that while the state was providing more officers, it has been unwilling to provide assistance to deal with such underlying causes of crime as mental health, poverty, gaps in educational opportunity, and joblessness. From all appearances, it did not seem as if there had been a great deal of discussion or agreement, which is necessary if the plans are going to succeed.

Councilman Aaron Banks praised the efforts which are already deploying to the streets of Jackson: 81 Capitol Police Officers, a portion of the 520-highway patrol force, and an unknown number of the more than 90-member narcotics agency. This underscores the idea that an increased police presence will deter some criminal activity. Councilman Kenneth Stokes thanked Reeves for that same assistance.

According to legislation on the books and from reports in the media, the Capitol Police will operate in Fondren, in downtown Jackson, in the vicinity of the University of Mississippi Medical Center, in the vicinity of Jackson State University, and over to I-55. From a citizen’s standpoint, however, it is not clear whether the Capitol Police will replace or supplement the Jackson police force in these areas. It makes a difference because it has to be clear under whose jurisdiction they are operating. The quality of law enforcement, and if it’s to be policed based upon local or state law, is not clear.

There is no disputing that there is too much gun violence in the city of Jackson. The same is true, to some degree, of the rest of the state and country. It would be tragic, however, if under this new arrangement and greater show of force, there is a rise in racist police conduct in the areas under discussion. Over the years, the Jackson Police Department and Hinds County Sheriff’s Department have labored hard to improve police-community relations compared to many other jurisdictions. Those relationships cannot afford to be weakened now by any different policing philosophy or set of law-enforcers.

The proof of the effectiveness of the plan will obviously be in the pudding, just as will the sincerity in diminishing crime in the area. On the one hand, there is a willingness to wait and see how the plan works out. On the other hand, it was not wise for the governor to seemingly promote the idea that Jackson’s crime as uncontrollable. It would seem, as Mayor Lumumba suggested, that if there is sincerity on the part of the state, there would be more effort to also assist with the matters of mental health, poverty, and joblessness, and education.

We would also add the idea of making it more difficult to acquire and own guns, the source of gun violence. Because restricting access and ownership of guns is a no-no among conservative Republicans, however, even though it is a major culprit, state leaders do not want to tackle it. Just as Councilman Stokes called for the National Guard to assist in Jackson, he called for legislation to outlaw the frequent gun shows, where it is easy for almost anyone to acquire guns.

It is an easy, emotional thing to say that the state is putting more officers on the ground because that seems to be what impresses people. Experts, however, have time and time again revealed that the solution cannot be confined to just more police officers.

We want to be supportive of the state’s effort. Nevertheless, the proposal unfolded by Reeves may be a step in the right direction, but it is inadequate.