Documents reveal Jackson Police Department lost 110 officers over last four years

Vacancies leave 131 positions within the agency unfilled
Published: May. 18, 2023 at 7:16 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - As statistics from the city of Jackson and our own analyses show decreases in most types of violent crime last year, the number of police officers employed by the city is dropping, too.

Departmental rosters obtained exclusively by 3 On Your Side show the number of sworn officers working for the Jackson Police Department plunged from 335 in March 2019 to 225 a few weeks ago.

Had it not been for recruits added through JPD classes over the years, that number would have been higher.

The most recent departmental roster lists 151 officers assigned to patrol the city’s precincts, but that doesn’t account for those on sick, vacation, military, or FMLA leave.

In recent months, Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba and Jackson Police Department Chief James Davis have blamed those drops in personnel on officers going to work for Capitol Police because of better pay.

That may not be the only factor causing people to jump ship, according to city leaders.

“When your police force drops and drops and drops in numbers, that’s a sign of a morale problem or not enough pay problem or a leadership problem,” City Council President Ashby Foote said. “But it’s a problem that needs to be addressed. It needs to be addressed aggressively. You can’t just be passive and let it just, you know, things get hollowed out on you.”

State Sen. John Horhn, D-Jackson, said about 60 percent of Capitol Police’s officers previously worked for JPD but acknowledges the city has been trying to increase salaries in recent months, including a starting salary of $40,000.

“They’re closing the gap on what Capitol Police is offering versus what JPD can offer. It’s not just about the money, it can’t be just about the money. Maybe it’s the working conditions,” Horhn said. “The career stepladder system is not a rigid system, it kind of depends on who likes you and who doesn’t. That’s a system that doesn’t work.”

Foote, who voted to oppose legislation to expand Capitol Police jurisdiction, said it’s hard to argue against extra officers in Jackson, though.

“The people down in South Jackson, West Jackson, they deserve police protection as much as everybody else. And so I’m glad they expanded the jurisdiction. I’m glad they’re expanding the number of officers sworn officers at Capitol Police. We need policemen on the beat out there a police presence in the neighborhoods and on the streets,” Foote said.

House Bill 1020 would significantly expand Capitol Police jurisdiction, but the bill has been blocked from becoming law in state and federal court thus far.

Horhn, who opposed the bill, said the city needs to take care of its own problems to win respect in the Legislature.

“We keep handing the state legislature and the state government ammunition to go into the guns that they have trained on us. We complain about the state trying to usurp our authority and all this other stuff,” Horhn said. “We need to handle our own business, and having a full complement of sworn officers on the streets of Jackson, Mississippi, is the local leadership’s business.”

Foote puts the blame squarely on the shoulders of the Lumumba administration, though he stopped short of offering specific solutions to the problem.

In recent months, Capitol Police has faced criticism for police chases and shootings involving its officers.

One woman filed a lawsuit against the agency because a bullet from an officer injured her when it flew into her house.

“Folks talk about Capitol Police having a heavy hand. And they also talk about JPD having a hands-off approach. And there needs to be somewhere where we meet in the middle,” Horhn said. “You want respectful law enforcement, you don’t want folks cowboying on our streets, even if they have a badge.”

WLBT contacted the mayor’s administration and JPD for comment on those findings and allow those public officials to share solutions for recruiting and retaining more officers.

Lumumba’s office declined to comment on the findings, saying the mayor was out of town.

JPD’s assistant chief told us the department may respond Friday.

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