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Lumumba says practice of bringing homeless to Jackson ‘unacceptable’

Updated: Nov. 9, 2020 at 2:26 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said a Ridgeland police officer’s decision to drop a homeless person off in Fondren is unacceptable and won’t be tolerated.

At the same time, he said it’s a symptom of a much larger problem facing the city, the region and the state.

At his press conference Monday, Lumumba discussed video footage that shows a Ridgeland officer dropping off a homeless person at a business in Fondren.

The incident occurred on Saturday, November 7. Video surveillance shows the officer letting the person out of the police cruiser. As the person was putting down her belongings, the officer got back into his vehicle and headed north.

“We want to speak to this and say that it is an unacceptable practice that takes place,” he said.

Lumumba said the video not only shows a police officer violating jurisdictional rules, but also underscores the need for more resources to address homelessness in the metro area.

Lumumba said he had spoken to Ridgeland Mayor Gene McGee, and the two agreed “this is not the way we should go about tending to people’s needs and concerns.”

He went on to say that if cities want to bring their homeless to Jackson, Jackson should be provided the resources needed to better care for those individuals.

He said McGee told him it was not Ridgeland’s “protocol for officers to do this, and that the officer would be directed not to do this – driving people into the city of Jackson who are suffering from issues of homelessness, drug abuse, and a number of other things they need support systems for.”

McGee spoke to WLBT on Monday morning. He said police received a call that an individual was harassing customers at a hotel near East County Line Road and Centre Street.

He wouldn’t say what hotel the individual was at and wouldn’t elaborate on how she was harassing customers. He would not say whether the woman was panhandling.

“We got a complaint of her harassing customers. That was the complaint,” he said.

The patrolman told the woman she could not harass customers and would have to leave, and he offered to give her a ride.

She initially wanted to be taken to Wood and Vine, an area that “is known for drug activity,” and the officer refused, McGee said.

The officer also refused to drop her off at the corner of Lakeland Drive and Old Canton Road. Due to its high traffic volume, Lakeland and Old Canton is a popular spot for panhandlers.

“He told her he would take her to a safe place,” said McGee, adding that the two agreed to the drop-off point in Fondren. That spot was 2727 Old Canton, at an architectural firm. The footage shows no one in the parking lot that day.

Jackson police were later called to the nearby Cups coffee shop, to pick up the lady. The department’s crisis intervention team responded, according to JPD spokesman Sam Brown.

When asked why the woman was not arrested by Ridgeland authorities, McGee said that would be a question for the police department.

Ridgeland Police Chief John Neal couldn’t be reached for comment.

Lumumba has heard for years that other jurisdictions have brought their homeless people into the capital city. The video footage gives proof to that.

“This is not the first time it has happened. This is the first time it has happened on video,” Lumumba said. “And it’s not just one jurisdiction, but multiple jurisdictions that bring people to Jackson.”

He said if other cities believe Jackson is best suited to serve the homeless and mentally ill, the city should receive for more funding to care for them.

“This is not an issue that we can turn a blind eye to,” he said. “It’s not something that we can shuffle off on (to) Jackson. It’s an issue that exists for the entire Jackson region.”

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