24 Feb Mississippi Center for Justice and Five Mississippians File Lawsuit Against the Jackson Police Department’s Unconstitutional Roadblock Policy
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MAPS – Melissa Garriga – firstname.lastname@example.org / 228-990-4168
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 24, 2022
MISSISSIPPI CENTER FOR JUSTICE AND FIVE MISSISSIPPIANS FILE LAWSUIT AGAINST THE JACKSON POLICE DEPARTMENT’S UNCONSTITUTIONAL ROADBLOCK POLICY
In a direct challenge to the Jackson Police Department’s roadblock policy known as “Ticket, Arrest, and Tow” or “TAT,” the Mississippi Center for Justice today filed a class-action lawsuit against the City of Jackson and Police Chief James E. Davis in federal court claiming that the policy violates the United States Constitution and must be terminated. The lawsuit, which is titled Gibbs v. City of Jackson, is brought on behalf of five Mississippians who live or work in Jackson and regularly drive in the majority Black and low-income neighborhoods where the roadblocks are disproportionately located.
As explained in the lawsuit:
The Jackson Police Department is enforcing a set of roadblock procedures dubbed “Ticket Arrest Tow” (TAT) that has led to the disproportionate placement of vehicular roadblocks, or checkpoints, in majority-Black and low-income neighborhoods. Citizens in these areas who have done nothing wrong are routinely stopped and delayed as they go about their business because the City believes this is an effective method of crime control. But it is not. More importantly, these wholesale stops of citizens in the name of crime control, without any reason to believe they have committed crimes, is a violation of their rights under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures. . . .
By routinely stopping people in certain neighborhoods for crime control purposes without any reason to believe they have committed crimes, TAT treats them like wanted suspects as they drive to and from school or work or for other legitimate reasons. . . .
Just as the police cannot walk in every home to search for evidence of a crime or stop and delay every citizen walking down the street to pat them down for drugs or illegal weapons or check their drivers licenses to see if they are wanted for a crime, they cannot do the same with every motorist on the public roads. If they could, they might make more arrests for criminal activity, but our security in our homes and our freedom to go about our business in public would be very restricted. The Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures and the Supreme Court has made it clear that wholesale stops of the kind being employed in Jackson are unreasonable. . . . Most of us are not wanted for the commission of crimes and the Constitution does not allow the police to intrude in our lives as if we were.
“Using roadblocks as a crime-solving shortcut is ineffective and unconstitutional, and their disproportionate location in majority Black and low-income areas of Jackson harms all residents,” said Attorney Paloma Wu of MCJ. “Checkpoints don’t address crime—they erode at what makes communities resilient in the face of it.”
“We certainly understand that the Mayor and the Police Chief and the people of Jackson want to bring down the level of crime,” said Vangela M. Wade, President and CEO of MCJ. Our lawsuit is not intended to detract from the City’s efforts but to ensure that everyone’s rights are respected and that disruptive measures are not unfairly imposed on majority Black and low-income neighborhoods. Moreover, whether a driver may lack driver’s license, auto registration or liability insurance hasn’t been shown to be indicative of criminal behavior or intent.”
The citizens who brought the case as Plaintiffs are Anita Gibbs, Lauren Rhoades, LaQuenza Morgan, Archie Skiffer Jr., and Timothy Halcomb. All live in Jackson and have encountered the unconstitutional roadblocks except Mr. Skiffer, who works every weekday in Jackson and, as a professional delivery driver, regularly reroutes his journey because he cannot afford to be delayed by them.
MCJ is also working with the Mississippi Alliance for Public Safety (MAPS), a community organization that is monitoring Jackson’s unconstitutional roadblock program. Two of the Plaintiffs in the case are members of MAPS.
“We know that roadblocks and checkpoints are not only an infringement on one’s constitutional rights but also criminalize poor and working-class folks who often have to choose between paying for car insurance or putting food on their table,” said a MAPS spokesperson. “Communities are not safer when their neighbors are arrested and their cars are impounded preventing them from going to work.”
The Plaintiffs in the case are represented by MCJ Attorneys Paloma Wu and Rob McDuff.
The Mississippi Center for Justice is dedicated to dismantling the state’s culture of inequity and injustice. Supported and staffed by attorneys and other professionals, the Center develops and pursues strategies to combat discrimination and poverty statewide.