Tuesday, January 12, 2016
In the past two weeks, a number of people have made political hay out of Ward 3 Councilman Kenneth Stokes' remark about throwing bottles and bricks at suburban cop cars to stop them from dangerously chasing petty criminal suspects into Jackson.
However, the controversy could be laid to rest with a symbolic resolution the city council will consider at Tuesday's council meeting, which officials expect to generate more interest than usual.
Stokes is the sponsor of a resolution, which, as originally written, opposes high-speed chases through Jackson by "outside jurisdictions." At an informal work session Monday, Kristen Blanchard, an attorney for the City, recommended adding the word "unlawful" to the resolution because cross-jurisdictional chases are lawful under the hot-pursuit doctrine.
That doctrine gives law enforcement the ability to pursue subjects without a search warrant if officers believe a delay will endanger lives; the doctrine does not allow officers to ignore all constitutional protections, however.
On Christmas Eve, several police agencies chased a man suspected of shoplifting and assault of a loss-prevention employee in Richland into Jackson. Stokes responded to the chase at a Dec. 29 council meeting.
Soon afterward, the local sheriffs seized on the opportunity to call for Stokes' resignation and censure from the city council; Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey filed a complaint with the attorney general's office and said he wanted to arrest Stokes. Stokes also stoked the embers, calling a press conference and, later, a city hall meeting to rally community support for his position.
"They are chasing a misdemeanor. Oh, you ran so now it's a felony, but it started off as a misdemeanor," Stokes told WJTV during the Jan. 8 community meeting.
At least one member, Ward 1 Councilman Ashby Foote, criticized the new resolution, calling it "political cover" for Stokes.
Other noteworthy city council agenda items include approving a contract with Socrates Garrett Enterprises for the chipping, grinding and hauling of vegetative debris. The contract expired six months ago, and the city has 60,000 cubic feet of mulch available free of cost to residents at the city landfill near Byram.
A change order to the Siemens contract for repairs at the J.H. Fewell water-treatment plant is on the agenda, but Mayor Tony Yarber's office said the agreement needs tweaks and will pull it from tonight's agenda.
The council also will consider a resolution opposing state legislation that would replace the current Jackson airport board with seven gubernatorial appointments, two each from Hinds, Rankin and Madison counties plus an at-large appointment. Currently, the mayor of Jackson nominates the airport board commissioners, and the city council confirms those nominations.
See the Jackson Free Press' past coverage of high-speed chases here: