Police Abuse

A Mississippi County Has Agreed To Stop Using Illegal Roadblocks in Black Neighborhoods

A 2017 Reason investigation found that black residents in Madison County felt under siege in their own neighborhoods.

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Two years after a cellphone video showed a white sheriff's deputy in Madison County, Mississippi, putting his hands around a handcuffed black man's neck, a federal judge has approved a settlement agreement between the county and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Mississippi that aims to end what community activists say is a generations-long history of unconstitutional and biased policing against minority residents in the rural county.

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves on Thursday approved a consent decree—a binding agreement overseen by a federal court—that will require the Madison County Sheriff's Department (MCSD) to implement new policies, anti-bias training, and data collection, as well as create a community advisory board.

The settlement is notable because most consent decrees over illegal policing have involved major cities like Chicago and Seattle, and those settlements are often spearheaded by the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division.

"We think it's important because a lot of smaller police departments or police departments in more rural areas, certainly throughout the South, have generally flown much farther under the radar and yet often are plagued by many of the same systemic problems that you see in big-city police departments," says Ezekiel Edwards, director of the ACLU's Criminal Law Reform Project. "We hope it sends a message to other police departments in Mississippi and throughout the South that they are obviously just as obligated to comply with the Constitution."

The consent decree is the result of a class-action civil rights lawsuit filed in 2017 by the ACLU of Mississippi and the law firm of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett.

The lawsuit alleged that Madison County police targeted black residents with unconstitutional checkpoints and warrantless searches, violating their Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Specifically, the lawsuit accused the MCSD of setting up illegal roadblocks and pedestrian "checkpoints" outside of majority-black housing complexes, conducting warrantless home invasions, and running aggressive "jump out" squads that targeted young black men doing nothing more than walking down the street.

As Reason detailed in a 2017 investigation, black residents of Madison County have felt under siege from the local sheriff's department for generations, but they have been almost totally ignored by the county government. 

One of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, Quinnetta Manning, captured video of a Madison County sheriff's deputy with his hand around the neck of her husband, whose hands were handcuffed behind his back. According to Manning, six deputies barged into their home at 7 in the morning and demanded they sign a false witness statement about a nearby robbery.

Manning says that after her husband, who walks with a cane due to a chronic nerve condition, tried to assert his rights, the deputies handcuffed him, began choking him, and told them, "You're either going to be witnesses or suspects."

When Manning's husband still refused, she says deputies dragged him down the stairs, calling him "Mr. Cripple." They took him to a police cruiser in nothing but his underwear and beat him until he agreed to sign the statement. His "face was swollen and bruised from the assault, and his wrists were cut and black and blue from the tight handcuffs," according to the ACLU lawsuit. "Hospital records show that Mr. Manning suffered both a sprained wrist and chest contusions."

Manning told Reason that, following the incident with MCSD, her son, then five years old, started habitually locking doors in the house out of fear that the police would return and take his parents away.

In a press release following the approval of the consent decree on Thursday, Manning said "this settlement agreement is not only a necessary step in reforming MCSD but a necessary step in returning humanity to the black residents of Madison County."

"When the Madison County Sheriff's Department forced their way into my house and choked my disabled husband, they stole a piece of our humanity," Manning said. "I know that every American citizen has rights, but the Madison County Sheriffs treated us as though we didn't and made us feel less than American."

The lawsuit also obtained undisclosed financial settlements for several of the named plaintiffs, including Manning and her husband. 

As part of the settlement, the sheriff's department did not, however, admit to engaging in "unconstitutional, illegal, or otherwise improper conduct."

In a statement released following the approval of the consent decree, Madison County Sheriff Randy Tucker said: "We successfully defended the plaintiff's attempt to make this a class action, the loss of services and to our citizens and cost of defending a second complaint was the deciding factor in this settlement. We have agreed to document more information I feel will show this administration does not target or profile any race."

During the course of the lawsuit, the ACLU uncovered a 2009 chain email, subject line "'White' Pride," that Tucker, who was elected in 2012, forwarded to several of his Madison County colleagues. The chain email contains such tropes as "How come there's no White History Month?"

The MSCD also handed over data showing that, on average, the per capita rate of police roadblocks in predominantly black census tracts in Madison County was double the rate in predominantly white census tracts. Despite making up 38 percent of the population of the county, black residents accounted for 77 percent of all arrests, 76 percent of all arrests at roadblocks, and 72 percent of all citations.

One of the other documents turned over to the ACLU and Simpson Thacher was the template case sheet for the MCSD's narcotics unit. All of the fields on the form were blank, except three that were automatically filled in: "black," "male," and "arrested."

"They really were being harassed and really were being racially profiled. No joke," says Canton, Mississippi resident Elaine Blair. "They really were doing that. I encountered [roadblocks] two times a day within four or five hours of each other, the same spot."

In 2007, Blair and her cousin started a group called Concerned Citizens of Canton that ran monthly civil rights training sessions and collected citizen complaints about the MCSD's use of pedestrian checkpoints and roadblocks. County officials ignored the group and its attempts to get public records from the MCSD.

Under the terms of the four-year consent decree, the Madison County sheriff will prohibit roadblocks or checkpoints within a quarter mile of apartment complexes in black neighborhoods. It will also conduct periodic training on unbiased law enforcement and collect detailed data, including racial demographics, on law enforcement stops and arrests. The community advisory board will also take citizen complaints about policing.

"I feel very good about taking a stand on this, because when you find yourself being mistreated, you have to just say something," Blair says. "I guess some people can say it's been a long time coming, but at least it's all out there. Now we're going to be better because of it."

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  1. I don’t care. The blacks in this country have decided to lay low while their leaders press for policies that increase racial segregation and disharmony. Fuck em, this is what that looks like. If you want less of it, then argue for less of it for everyone, not just when it impacts you personally.

    1. So if I follow the logic, black Law Enforcement (LE) officers target white citizens? Shoot unarmed white citizens, choke white guys? Ok, I give up, where?

      The issue is simple, the militarization of LE started after Vietnam, and ran wild under reagan-cancer. Stop the breeding of swat teams and teach de-escalation techniques. Put minorities, soon to be equals and eventually majorities in the SW, into positions of power. Shut FOX, am hate radio off.

      1. “So if I follow the logic, black Law Enforcement (LE) officers target white citizens?”

        Nope. You didn’t follow anything.

        “Shoot unarmed white citizens, choke white guys? Ok, I give up, where?”

        Considering you seem to be deludedly ranting about things that I never said and that don’t even plausibly appear as possible ideas in my post, you should give up. You can’t read.

        “The issue is simple”

        No you’re simple. Nothing you said had anything to do with my post, dumbass.

      2. Your history is a little off. The militarization of law enforcement started (in the modern era) with the War on Drugs. The War on Drugs was kicked off by Nixon as an attempt to distract attention from the troubles that ultimately led to his impeachment proceedings. Yes, that happened about the same time as the end of the Vietnam War but there was no causal connection.

        The militarization of police escalated under each successive president as they each continued to escalate the misnamed and counter-productive War on Drugs. So, yes, it got worse under Reagan but not at an especially greater rate than under most other presidents. Until Obama, that is. His misguided “charity” in giving surplus military equipment to law enforcement through the Homeland Security apparatus was like pouring gasoline on the dumpster fire that is police-community relations. (In fairness, not a policy that Obama started – just one that his administration really amped up to horrible effect.)

        1. Police militarization actually predates both wars. The Onion Field killings in the early 60s lead police to change their policies about surrendering their firearm and use of force, ultimately resulting in this warrior mindset we see today where cops seem trigger happy. The pendulum always swings.

    2. Cody The Coward is a racist. If I knew where you lived I’d make a crowd out of you, you little pussy, weak, pissant of a boy. Also, your “reason” is specious (look it up, dumbo) at best, and moronic at worst (go for worst). FUCK YOU AND ALL LIKE YOU! Also, you know your statement is bullshit, and if you don’t, I am not insulting you by calling you a moron.

      1. Wow! You are really badass.

    3. Look at you all grown up and channeling Osama bin Laden.

      That was also al-Qaeda’s rational for attacking the ‘little Eichmanns’, aka innocent civilians, who worked at the WTC. – ‘They were complicit in U.S. might and misdeeds. Didn’t their taxes fund America’s CIA assassinations blah blah blah?’

  2. As part of the settlement, the sheriff’s department did not, however, admit to engaging in “unconstitutional, illegal, or otherwise improper conduct.”

    Ugh.

  3. These road blocks were just common sense measures to deal with crime, like gun control laws.

    1. No they weren’t, otherwise why did they focus only on black people. Do you love anywhere near where this happened, or are you just excreting the usual dumbass comment? Yeah, both are true aren’t they, you pussy.

    2. The 2nd Amendment was about the right to put down slave rebellions.

  4. Madison County Sheriff’s Department (MCSD) to implement new policies, anti-bias training, and data collection, as well as create a community advisory board.

    Can we teach these officers to not be racist or do we need to fire the whole lot of them and start over?

    1. Or, fire them all and leave it at that.

  5. I think Madison county is both the white suburbs (>90% white) of Jackson (75% black) and the edge of the Delta (>75% black). So there’s going to be a … culture clash.

    Despite making up 38 percent of the population of the county, black residents accounted for 77 percent of all arrests, 76 percent of all arrests at roadblocks, and 72 percent of all citations.

    Is that unusual?

    Note for journalists and other innumerates: If crimes are enforced in racially neutral manner, libertarian “soft on crime” policies result in greater racial differences.

    1. So pre-filled forms are just a symptom?

      1. Has “so” ever preceded an intelligent question?

        1. People who start opinion comments with “I think” are really sure of themselves and afraid to offend anybody.

          1. Do you have a point?

            1. Three questions, you are on a roll.

              1. I’m kinda impressed at how awful you are at trolling.

      2. A symptom of what? They could be a symptom of racial preferences in enforcement, or they could be a symptom of the fact that overwhelmingly black males commit those crimes.

  6. And yet lc1789 claims anarchy would be chaos, and government is good.

    How many problems in society are caused by government? How many are fixed by more laws without creating more problems?

    Slavery is the classic example — created by government, ended by 1M dead and replaced by government-mandated Jim Crow segregation, and that replaced by government-mandated affirmative action racism.

    Yeah, this consent decree is going to solve the problem. See ya in ten years, fighting the same problem.

    1. Slavery is the classic example — created by government

      Sorry for calling you a troll. You’re just borderline retarded.

      1. No he’s borderline AND retarded

      2. If you don’t understand that slavery was a problem created and perpetuated by government then it’s you who is retarded.

        1. I guess I’m retarded. Slavery has been perpetuated by governments, but it is not typically created by governments in any reasonable sense — that is, a meaning of “government” not being equivocated on. Slavery probably predates government. It almost certainly does not predate language, because it started by someone saying, “I’ll let you live only if you do this for me.”

          1. You’re equivocating on the meaning of “created slavery”, switching between its origins and its establishment, and switching between mere compulsion to servitude to a property right.

            In any case, the US colonies didn’t have chattel slavery until decades after they were founded; the US federal government didn’t recognize chattel slavery until decades after the founding of the US. In both cases, the establishment of chattel slavery as a legally recognized form of ownership was something that happened decades after the establishment of government.

            So, no, slavery wasn’t just “perpetuated by government”, in the case of North America, the legal institution of slavery was created long after the establishment of government; it was not “inherited” or merely perpetuated.

  7. What about, I don’t know, people who choked a handcuffed individual, just maybe, possibly, going to prison?

    1. Depends on whether procedures were followed.

  8. The settlement is notable because most consent decrees over illegal policing have involved major cities like Chicago and Seattle, and those settlements are often spearheaded by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

    Th DOJ / PD consent decrees also frequently last 20 years or more and still fail to produce any lasting or meaningful change.

    1. Our consent decree in New Orleans has helped immensely.

  9. Good for them for fixing it and good for the ACLU for fighting it. The only complaint I have with the article is when the ACLU rep complains about rural police departments “certainly throughout the South”. I’ve lived in many parts of the country by now including a number of small towns across the South. By far, the most racially prejudiced place I lived was Cleveland. In my personal experience, northern cities are substantially more bigoted than southern small towns.

    1. You may have a point. However, that doesn’t negate the evidence in this particular case.

      1. Road blocks in black neighborhoods at twice the rate compared to white neighborhoods? That’s evidence?

        How about relating that to crime rates? Do you want police to be allocated based on race or based on where the crimes actually happen?

        I mean, personally, I have no problem with stopping all subsidies to local police departments. But it is Democrats and progressives who want the federal government to dole out money for new programs in poor neighborhoods. So make up your mind.

    2. Yup. I never ran into middle aged men using the word “nigger” to describe a coworker until I was in northern Iowa.

      1. Under the terms of the four-year consent decree, the Madison County sheriff will prohibit roadblocks or checkpoints within a quarter mile of apartment complexes in black neighborhoods.

        Said roadblocks and checkpoints still being patently unconstitutional.
        Also, tattoos on darker skinned people just look like bruises.

        1. Wasnt supposed to be a reply. Oh well.

        2. And they’ll place the roadblocks 1,321 feet away.

  10. Get rid of the federal grant money that funds these checkpoints, and the checkpoints will magically disappear.

  11. Once again, the taxpayers take it in the ass by being forced to pay out settlements to police victims, while the guilty officers and managers go unpunished.

    “Skinny gets some ponies and that’s it? That ain’t fair…”

  12. Ooooooooooooo a whole four years of not being able to have the public teat subsidize their racism.

    So how much prison time will these racist be getting?

    If African Americans ever want justice, they will have to go Oklahoma City or 9-11 on the ruling Oligarchy’s corrupt and murderous security forces’ asses.

    There is only one language that racist sociopaths understand, and that is a sharp stick up the ass.

    1. ^ This message brought to you by Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren. Now, deplorables, vote for them!

  13. It is taking far too long for America’s liberal-libertarian mainstream to force Mississippi’s bigots to behave properly (or be replaced), but the better people will continue to make progress and will prevail.

    1. I think you’ve crossed the line from idiot account to parody account. Good going, Kirkland!

  14. The MSCD also handed over data showing that, on average, the per capita rate of police roadblocks in predominantly black census tracts in Madison County was double the rate in predominantly white census tracts. Despite making up 38 percent of the population of the county, black residents accounted for 77 percent of all arrests, 76 percent of all arrests at roadblocks, and 72 percent of all citations.

    You need to measure these numbers relative to crime rate, not population.

    1. And you have to look at crime rates relative to where enforcement is focused. If you selectively look for Black lawbreakers, then that’s mostly what you’ll find.

      1. And you have to look at crime rates relative to where enforcement is focused. If you selectively look for Black lawbreakers, then that’s mostly what you’ll find.

        That argument might work for petty crimes or traffic violations, but it doesn’t work for serious crimes. When crime victims go to the police and describe the suspect, they give the race of the suspects. From crime statistics, it’s clear that the crime rates among blacks are much higher than among whites regardless of any racial bias of juries or selective enforcement by police.

        1. I should add, of course, that race is only an accidental marker. Blacks that get an education, marry, raise their kids in a two-parent household, and generally adopt white middle class values do just as well (in fact, slightly better) than whites.

          The high crime rates are the result of single parent households, gang culture, and other social and individual failings. The reason those are so concentrated among blacks is largely due to progressive and Democratic policies over the last half century. Blacks used to be more law abiding and have more stable families than whites before the civil rights movement.

        2. You’ve missed the point. Look again at the passage you quoted.

    2. And how do we measure crime rate?

      1. Well, that’s not my problem. I’m just saying that measuring roadblocks-per-population is the wrong measure for making an argument about racially biased police enforcement. If you want to make an argument about racially biased police enforcement, it’s your job to provide credible number for both road blocks and crime rates.

        1. And again, you miss the point that if you put the roadblocks in Black neighborhoods, you’re going to catch Black lawbreakers. The rate at which “whites” commit the same crimes is irrelevant.

  15. How often are road blocks even useful against crimes?

  16. Roadblocks and checkpoints should be considered unconstitutional and unAmerican.

    1. Until socialists come to power. Then Tony wants roadblocks and checkpoints to protect the workers from the depredations and corruptions by “fascists and reactionaries”. Seen it all before. You can shove your fake civil liberties concerns where the sun don’t shine, Tony.

  17. Eh. I lived in Madison recently, and both the city police and county sheriff’s department are notorious for terrorizing everyone – *everyone* – with more or less equal vigor. I was stopped at dozens of road blocks in the four years I lived there, and not many of those were in areas that could be described as ‘predominantly black.’

    Madison and the surrounding county are one of the most affluent localities in the entire country. The ‘predominantly white’ tracts are new construction mega-neighborhoods with prohibitive HOA fees. The ‘predominantly black’ tracts are poorer and older rural developments. Sure, it’s possible the abuses in the article are explained by virulent racism, but it’s also possible the police simply tend to be more active in the areas where they encounter more criminal violations and that their expectations are guided by past observation. Lower-income areas, not surprisingly, tend to foster more criminal activity than high-income white-collar areas. I believe the demographics in this case are at least partially coincidental.

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