The mother of Jaylen Lewis, a young Black man killed by Mississippi’s Capitol Police, says she opposes state lawmakers’ plans to extend the territory of patrol for Capitol police inside the city of Jackson.
“That terrifies me,” Arkela Lewis told AP. “It also angers me.”
According to reports, Jaylen Lewis was killed Sept. 25, 2022. The 25-year-old Black man was followed by a Capitol police officer in an unmarked vehicle, then shot in the head during a traffic stop. Although the officer was placed on administrative leave after the incident, and Jaylen’s death is allegedly still under investigation, Lewis’ mother says the state police agency never called her to acknowledge her son’s death. She also claims she hasn’t received an investigative report or autopsy results.
Many in the community are fearful that expanding Capitol Police territory within Jackson would just cause more terror and tragedy in the city.
The bill, House Bill 1020, would not only expand areas of Jackson patrolled by a state-run Capitol Police force but also create a new court system with judges that are appointed rather than elected by voters. All appointments would be handled by white state officials.
Despite local voters electing judges and prosecutors, the white chief justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court would appoint two judges to oversee a new district within the city.
The white state attorney general would then appoint four prosecutors, a court clerk and four public defenders for the new district.
The white state public safety commissioner would then oversee an expanded Capitol Police force, run currently by a white chief.
House Bill 1020 would also double the funding for the district to $20 million to help increase the size of the Capitol police force in the state.
Judges would also not be required to live in Jackson or the county where it’s located.
Many activists and lawmakers in Mississippi have condemned the new law, saying it would strip away voting rights and disenfranchise Black people in Jackson.
“It’s really a stripping of power, and it’s happening in a predominantly Black city that has predominantly Black leadership,” Sonya Williams-Barnes, a Democratic former state lawmaker who is now Mississippi policy director for the Southern Poverty Law Center Action Fund, told AP. “You don’t see this going on in other areas of the state where they’re run by majority white people.”
Other critics of the bill say residents of Jackson nor elected officials asked for a backdoor court.
“I have not heard that anyone from the City of Jackson, Mississippi who is an elected official is in favor of this,” said Blackmon. “This is a land grab, has nothing to do with crime.”
Jackson, Mississippi is more than 80% percent Black, arguably the Blackest city percentage-wise in the United States.
Sadly, 33.8% of the state’s Black population lives below the poverty line.
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