Capitol Police Would Patrol Jackson But With Bodycams Under Revised H.B. 1020

Senate Judiciary A Committee Chairman Brice Wiggins, R-Pascagoula, responds to a question about legislation
Sen. Brice Wiggins, R-Pascagoula, told lawmakers on the Senate floor that “our goal (with H.B. 1020) is to get a safe Jackson.” AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

JACKSON, Miss.—A controversial effort to give state-run Capitol Police more control over Mississippi’s capital city continues as Senate lawmakers amended House Bill 1020 to remove some provisions and add a requirement for officers to wear body cameras.

The Senate made the changes on Tuesday, stripping out language that required the City of Jackson and the Mississippi Department of Public Safety to enter into an agreement over the details on how the state-run police will patrol the capital city alongside local law enforcement. Instead, a memorandum of understanding will now be optional, but the Capitol Police expansion will happen whether an agreement is reached or not.

Jackson Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba previously criticized the requirement to sign an MOU with DPS, calling the legislation “an attack on Black leadership in every form” in a Feb. 23 interview with the Mississippi Free Press. He said at the time that H.B. 1020 was “fraught with constitutional issues.”

“If there was a genuine belief that this was constitutionally sound then it wouldn’t be attempting to force a legal document that Jackson has to sign,” Lumumba said last month.

In late February, the Senate Judiciary A Committee removed language from the House version that would have expanded the Capitol Complex Improvement District and created a state-appointed inferior court of permanent judges and prosecutors to handle cases in the district. But while the original House version kept Capitol Police jurisdiction solely in the CCID, the Senate bill would expand their jurisdiction to include the entire capital city.

On the Senate floor Tuesday, Sen. Brice Wiggins, R-Pascagoula, said the forced-agreement provision generated a lot of furor, necessitating his amendment.

“As we discussed in committee, our goal is to get a safe Jackson. What has been deleted from the House Bill is the expanded CCID plan, the inferior court and the permanently appointed judges,” he added. “All patrol (officers) shall have body-worn cameras, and vehicle cameras will be required by Capitol Police and paid for by the State. There is also a requirement that they be kept in good working condition and shall be operational while the officers and the vehicle are on patrol.”

Between August 2022 and January 2023, Capitol Police reported four incidents where officers opened fire, including one that resulted in the death of 25-year-old Jaylewn Lewis, drawing protests and demands for greater scrutiny of the special force.

Cliff Johnson, center, with the MacArthur Justice Center, voices his opposition to Mississippi House Bill 1020, Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023, during a protest at the Mississippi Capitol in Jackson. The bill would create a separate court system in the Capitol Complex Improvement District in Jackson. Now the Legislature is backing away from the courts plan.
The Mississippi Senate removed provisions in House Bill 1020 that would have created a state-appointed inferior court in Jackson after it sparked outrage among capital city residents, like those seen here protesting the proposal on Feb. 7, 2023. AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

The latest version makes a memorandum of understanding between the City of Jackson and DPS optional and adds the Hinds County sheriff to the list of entities that can take part in the agreement.

“The Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, the City of Jackson, and the Sheriff of Hinds County may enter into a Memorandum of Understanding detailing the expectations of the parties concerning the enforcement of all laws of the State of Mississippi within the boundaries of the City of Jackson, Mississippi,” the new Senate-approved floor amendment states. “A copy of any said executed memorandum shall be provided to the Department of Finance and Administration and the Chairs of the Senate and House Appropriations Committees.”

The full Senate’s amended version of H.B. 1020 would still give Capitol Police concurrent jurisdiction with the Jackson Police Department over the entire capital city. The Senate passed the amended bill on a 34-15 vote Tuesday, with no members of the Jackson delegation in favor.

On Tuesday, WLBT reported that Sen. John Horhn, D-Jackson, said the bill “is vastly improved from where it started, but it is still a snake, and it needs to be defeated.”

Because the Senate made changes, the bill now returns to the House. The House and Senate will likely need to go to a conference committee to iron out the details and resolve their differences on the legislation.

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