Community and policymakers react to guilty pleas former Rankin Co. officers
JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The guilty pleas of six former officers in Rankin County for the assault and torture of two Black men have generated a strong reaction here at home and across the nation. Five of the men are former Rankin County deputies: Brett McAlpin, Jeffrey Middleton, Christian Dedmon, Hunter Elward, and Daniel Opdyke. Joshua Hartfield is a former Richland police officer.
We wanted to hear from those of you living and working in Rankin County.
Does the news of the guilty pleas by the six former officers change how you feel about law enforcement?
“Well, sadly, it makes me very distrustful and very nervous,” said Stephen Santa Ana. “I was just out driving a while ago; I saw Rankin County Sheriff, and I felt fear.”
“It doesn’t change how I feel,” noted Madison Roberts. “I still feel safe in the community.”
And for those who knew them before they wore the badge, it’s adding a layer of emotion.
“Matter of fact, we knew one of the guys, one of the guys on there played football with us,” said Hassan Jones. “So, even hearing that was a bigger reaction to us. I feel like now every time you get pulled over or anything else, it is making citizens more concerned.”
“I just think there are a lot of bad apples mixed in with a whole lot of good in any situation, in any profession,” countered Susan Uithoven. “And I feel perfectly safe out here in Rankin County.”
For policymakers, we asked whether it will spark legislative changes. Rep. Zakiya Summers, who represents part of the county, says she has ideas of what those reforms should include.
“We need to ensure that there’s a statewide policy on how body cams are turned on, how they are used, who has access to their footage, that officers cannot view the footage before they write their reports,” said Rep. Summers. “This helps build public trust. The Department of Public Safety could create a database by which anyone in the state of Mississippi can access records around civilian complaints as well as any disciplinary issues with law enforcement officers. We need that kind of transparency.”
Rankin County native Gov. Tate Reeves also reacted, sending this statement.
“Frankly, I am disgusted by the conduct to which these individuals admitted in their pleas, and I fully condemn their actions. These actions by a few are not representative of Mississippi’s law enforcement community who work every day to keep Mississippians safe. Many have done their job to ensure justice is served in this case, and the guilty pleas prove that Mississippi’s criminal justice system works.”
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