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Hinds Co. sheriff debate takes place at Jackson State University

Published: Oct. 26, 2021 at 5:55 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - A debate was hosted for the Hinds County sheriff candidates at Jackson State University Tuesday night.

This following the sudden death of Sheriff Lee D. Vance, who passed away due COVID complications earlier this year.

“The forum will give candidates a chance to address issues that strengthen their platforms and to explain how they can develop the community’s trust in law enforcement and keep crime to a minimum in their jurisdiction,” said Dr. Maruice Mangum, Chair of Political Science and moderator for the evening.

The candidates who attended were: Marshand Crisler, Tyree Jones, Leon Seals, Les Tannehill, Reggie Thompson, Richard Spooner, Eric Wall, and Beverly Harris-Williams.

Each candidate answered eight prepared questions and had a minute to respond to each one. The debate was then opened up to those in the audience to ask questions of their own.

“There are several of these candidates that I think can really be a great sheriff for this county,” State Representative Bo Brown said.

Tuesday’s debate began with all the candidates speaking about their experience in law enforcement and why their resume makes them the person for the job.

Representative Brown said that’s exactly what he’s looking for in the next sheriff.

“There were one or two that stand out simply because of their experience,” Brown said. “We need to make sure that we elect a sheriff that also has a great deal of law enforcement experience.”

All eight candidates touched on a few common themes.

One was involving police in the communities they serve in non-law enforcement settings, which is something Arekia Bennett said is an important step in gaining residents’ trust.

“I think we should go back to community policing where folks who are in the community and of the community are taking care of the folks who they know and love,” Bennett said.

Another topic was addressing the Department of Justice’s concerns relating to the Hinds County Detention Center. Tuesday’s debate was just days after an inmate was found dead inside the jail.

“I really am looking for a sheriff that can address this issue of funding and raise money for the sheriff’s department and make sure that we have adequate funding for the jails,” Bennett said.

Other topics included assisting an undermanned Jackson Police Department in combatting crime in the city.

Most candidates spoke to the importance of partnering with agencies on the federal and state level as well as in nearby counties. Additionally, candidates spoke a lot about working to get illegal guns off the streets, educating Jackson’s youth to keep them from committing crimes, and being more transparent with the community.

Brown and Bennett both felt the candidate’s answers to the prepared questions were too vague.

“I’ve heard a lot of ‘what ifs,’ I’ve heard a lot of suggestions, and I’ve heard a lot of ‘if I’m elected, I will.’ But I haven’t heard a lot of substance,” Brown said. “I haven’t heard a lot of actual plans.”

“I was happy that we talked a little bit about implementing community conversations, but I don’t think that goes far enough,” Bennett said.

Similar forums with the candidates are planned for this Thursday and Saturday. The special election is next Tuesday.

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