JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Members of the Jackson City Council say they still haven’t seen specific strategies nor funding requests from Jackson Police Chief James Davis, intended to tackle the escalation of violent crime in the city since 2021 began.
During a two-hour law enforcement ad-hoc committee meeting Tuesday, Davis and members of JPD’s command staff faced a barrage of questions, not all of which were answered.
Davis told council members they’re getting involved with neighborhood associations, issuing roadblocks through Operation Safe Streets and doing knock and talks in neighborhoods.
Two weeks ago, JPD spokesperson Sam Brown said they were doing this already, and some of these strategies -- like Operation Safe Streets -- had been implemented by the department more than two years ago.
“I need help from City Council, because what I see across the city, is the lack of social services in the community, to teach individuals that has gone astray, to reach those individuals,” Davis said. “And that’s why we need to help from -- we’re doing all we can do.”
Ward 7 Councilwoman Virgi Lindsay expressed frustration with the chief for continually asking for the council’s assistance without a clear path forward on how it can do that.
“I want it in writing, I want a plan with funding that you need to...just coming before us and saying ‘I need help from the council’ is not enough,” Lindsay said. “I really want to know how you need our help.”
Committee members had also asked for a payroll study of comparable law enforcement agencies in other states to see how JPD officer pay stacks up, an effort to improve morale and salaries in the future, but that assignment wasn’t followed, either.
“We did not do a study with Mobile or any outside agency. We only did with the surrounding agencies,” said Tyrone Buckley, who serves as deputy chief of administration. “In that study, we found that the highest-paid agency was starting off at $41,000. In order for me to present those numbers, we actually have to go do the research to get that information.”
That figure of $41,000, which represents the starting salary of a trooper with the Mississippi Highway Patrol, had also been included in a payroll study of surrounding agencies Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba provided to reporters more than four months ago.
It’s unclear whether Buckley used information the mayor’s office had already pulled from other agencies or began his own study.
Council President Aaron Banks asked Davis if Jackson has a gang problem. Davis said yes, marking the first time the chief had acknowledged that publicly during a council meeting.
The chief told Banks the department even has a gang unit comprised of six officers.
Deputy Chief of Major Investigations Deric Hearn said that unit was formed in December. Davis said he could not give details on the number of individuals in gangs or number of gangs in the city, citing investigative concerns.
The chief also said the department would be offering a sergeant’s exam for the first time since 2013, allowing officers who pass to be eligible for a promotion and pay increase - though he did not say when this would take place.
Ward 2 Councilwoman Angelique Lee told Chief Davis her concerns about convenience stores in the city after Sunday’s shootout inside a gas station on West Woodrow Wilson Drive.
“I’m also at a certain hour, with all these crimes happening at gas stations, afraid to go to a gas station at night as a single mother with my two kids in the car,” Lee said. “Are we going to put more boots on the ground like during the Charlie shift, or when it starts getting dark?”
Lee mentioned driving down Woodrow Wilson Drive and seeing no police presence at gas stations still bustling after Sunday’s double homicide.
“We might need to close some of these stores at 10 o’clock that aren’t serving, you know, the community off the highways, where we see that they’re having a lot of crime,” Lee said.
Ward 1 Councilman Ashby Foote asked if it would be possible to connect video cameras in the city’s grocery stores to Jackson’s real-time command center.
“We’ve been working on it for about a year now. In Detroit and Flint, Michigan, they have what they call the green light at all stations,” said Vincent Grizzell, deputy chief of support services. “Nobody shops unless they see the green light.”
Grizzell explained that those stores in Michigan that did not decide to opt into the green light program -- which indicates cameras in the store are connected to a central network like Jackson’s RTCC -- experienced drops in business because customers wanted to shop where they felt safer.
Grizzell said they’re pursuing grants to start the process -- which could cost upwards of $1 million -- and would need to contract individually with stores to help them sign up.
Command staff also discussed the success of the RTCC, showing videos of suspect vehicles and other clues the cameras captured to aid investigators in cases.
JPD did not provide any statistical information on how effective the crime center has been thus far, though.