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Rankin Sheriff Enacts Policy Changes After ‘Goon Squad’ Tortured Black Men

An anti-police brutality activist looks back at the entrance to the Rankin County Sheriff's Office in Brandon, Miss
After the so-called “goon squad” pleaded guilty to the torture of two Black men in Braxton, Miss., Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey announced department policy changes on Nov. 28, 2023. Here, anti-police brutality activists look back at the entrance to the Rankin County Sheriff's Office in Brandon, Miss., on Wednesday, July 5, 2023, as they protested the department. AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File

Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey says he is implementing policy changes at his department after five so-called “goon squad” deputies pleaded guilty to state and federal charges over the January 2023 beating and sexual assault of two Black men, Michael Jenkins and Eddie Terrell Parker, in Braxton, Miss. The sheriff, who won reelection in November with no opposition, announced the changes in a press release originally shared with Pelahatchie News.

The policy changes include prohibitions on threatening and terrorizing people and requiring officers to intervene to stop other officers who engage in such conduct.

“This past January, inappropriate conduct from an isolated group of deputies injured citizens in our county and undermined the reputation of this department,” he said in the Nov. 28 press release. “The safety and security of our citizens, and visitors, is one of our main objectives, and we take all occurrences of this nature very seriously.”

Two days after Bailey’s claim that an “isolated group of deputies” were responsible, Mississippi Today and The New York Times reported that the “loose band of sheriff’s deputies” known as the “goon squad” has engaged in similar actions against other people in impoverished neighborhoods in the county for nearly two decades.

The sheriff said that “once the true facts were discovered,” the department “cooperated fully with the official investigation” and fired deputies Hunter Elward, Christian Dedmon, Brett Mc’Alpin, Daniel Opdyke and Jeffrey Middleton in June. Richland Police Chief Nick McLendon announced in July that his department had fired Richland officer Joshua Hartfield in connection with Jenkins’ and Parker’s case.

U.S. District Judge Tom Lee scheduled the men’s sentencing for January 2024.

Jeffrey Artis and his company J. Artis Consulting, who have worked with the FBI for decades, helped the sheriff’s department make over its policies and procedures handbook, the press release said.

Rankin County Sheriff’s Department Policy & Procedure Manual
Click here to read the new Rankin County Sheriff’s Department Policy and Procedure Manual. File courtesy Rankin County

In the 68-page document, the Rankin County Sheriff’s Department outlined 13 “general orders,” several policies and procedures, and dozens of “rules of conduct” that it says now apply to all employees.

“Do not allow, encourage, or ignore officers that abuse, threaten, or terrorize any person,” General Order No. 6 says.

The “duty to intervene” policy says that deputies must stop another officer if they are disobeying the law or the department’s policies and that “the Fourth Amendment requires that every law enforcement officer” to prevent fellow officers from violating the Constitution.

“All RCSD deputies shall intervene if they witness a fellow officer engaging in any act that is unethical, violates federal or state law (including when force is being excessively or unreasonably applied or applied when there is no longer a justification), or violates RCSD policy,” the procedure corresponding with policy 2.07 says.

Policy No. 4.01 outlines uses of force, levels of force and weapons; it also lists de-escalation techniques and definitions for assault.

The handbook’s Policy No. 3.06 says all deputies must turn on their body cameras “when in contact with the public” during traffic stops; during “deputy-initiated stops of the general public;” during arrests; during searches; during interviews and interrogations; during warrant service; during pursuits; and during “any other contact with a member of the public that a deputy reasonably believes may become adversarial.”

Alongside policy updates, the department has added a compliment and complaint form on its website so people can make comments online as well as in person, over the phone or through the mail. The press release said all management can access the comments and will share them with the full department.

Rankin County deputies and jailers attended a Color of Law training session with the Civil Rights Unit at the FBI’s Washington, D.C., location, where “experienced leaders” provided leadership training to the management team, the press release added.

It says the department also hired an internal affairs investigator “from outside of the department to help foster impartiality and fairness in our reviews” along with adding more internal affairs investigators to the compliance division.

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