Target: Labor (Day)

Assistant Police Chief Edna Drake took a seat next to Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr. at a recent City Council meeting in full uniform, her black gun bridled by its shiny leather holster on her hip. The Council was deciding whether to authorize the mayor to accept a DUI Grant award from the Mississippi Department of Public Safety, Office of Highway Safety, in the amount of $5,000. The grant will pay for Drake and her officers to patrol specifically on the look-out for drunk drivers on Labor Day weekend.

Ward 3 Councilman Kenneth Stokes seized the chance to talk about a phenomenon called "driving while black" that he said is happening in nearby cities, which entails policemen stopping young blacks and forcing them to take DUI tests. "If we are going to vote on this, we need to not target anybody," he said.

Ward 4 Councilman Bo Brown pointed out that Jackson State and Alcorn will be at an out-of-town football game in Florida that weekend. "However, Mississippi College plays Millsaps on the weekend in question," he said. "We need to make sure that people do not feel like we are being overbearing." He then asked: "Is this a demonstration, or did we just not have money before (to do this)?"

Drake responded: "There is a problem; it is a matter of public safety. We will not be targeting any sporting event or neighborhood. Officers will use this time and grant to evaluate the amount of DUIs so we can see the need for the rest of the year."

Brown was still concerned about the timing, but Stokes broke with Brown by saying that he sees the need for the order. He said laughing, "The drunkest one always wants to drive."

Ward 5 Councilwoman Bettye Dagner-Cooke said, "I'm glad we got this grant, and I want you to take it up a notch." Ben Allen, of Ward 1, added: "You can target my ward. Three 16-year-olds were in a car accident coming home. It is tragic. This grant isn't much money but thank you."

The order was passed with a 5-0 vote.


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