19 Jul Rankin County Sheriff’s Department Illegally Withholding Public Records on Three Men Who Died While in the Department’s Custody or During Encounters with the Department Officers
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 19, 2022
Contact: Courtney Holsworth, firstname.lastname@example.org, (989) 572-8162
Rankin County Sheriff’s Department Illegally Withholding Public Records on Three Men Who Died While in the Department’s Custody or During Encounters with the Department Officers
Jackson, Miss. – Today, a journalist with Insider, Inc., with counsel from the Mississippi Center for Justice, sued the Rankin County Sheriff’s Department (RCSD) for unlawfully withholding public records pertaining to events involving the death of three men who died in custody or at the hands of RCSD officers. Read the full complaint here.
“When our state’s public records law is violated, the victims are all Mississippians,” said Paloma Wu, an attorney for the plaintiff from the Mississippi Center for Justice, a nonprofit, public interest law firm committed to advancing racial and economic justice. “In this case, a law enforcement agency has refused to provide public records–incident reports–about the deaths of men they held or pursued. The injury to Mississippians is twofold: loss of access to records belonging to the public, and loss of trust in an agency sworn to uphold the law.”
“The public is entitled to answers when interactions between the public and police end in violence or death,” Vangela M. Wade, president and CEO of the Mississippi Center for Justice. “Increased transparency about deadly law enforcement interactions improves police accountability, which in turn improves public safety for all Mississippians–and particularly Black Mississippians, who are more often victims of unjustified police violence.”
The journalist requested incident reports for the deaths of Mr. Damien Montrell Cameron, Mr. Shannon Trevor McKinley, Mr. Cory Jackson, and Mr. Robert Rushton, all of whom died last year either while in the custody of or at the hands of RCSD officers. The sheriff’s department denied three out of four requests, explaining that they would not release the incident reports because an investigation was underway.
The Mississippi Public Records Act clearly states that “all public records are hereby declared to be public property,” and the Mississippi Ethics Commission has repeatedly rejected similar arguments made by other law enforcement agencies in the past. Incident reports are hallmark public records that must be released upon request, regardless of whether or not an investigation is underway.
The Mississippi Center for Justice and attorney John F. Hawkins of Hawkins Law, P.C. are representing Insider, Inc., in this case.
The Mississippi Center for Justice is dedicated to dismantling the state’s culture of inequity and injustice. Support and staffed by attorneys and other professionals, the Center pursues strategies to combat discrimination and poverty statewide.