A groundbreaking consent decree will help to prevent the Madison County Sheriff’s Department from engaging in the racially motivated policing practices that have historically been its hallmark. The class-action lawsuit initially filed by us along with our partners at the American Civil Liberties Union and the law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP aimed to challenge Madison County’s unconstitutional policing tactics. “The Court’s order affirms the simple but fundamental proposition – that in America police must treat everyone the same regardless of race,” said Joshua Tom, Legal Director and Interim Executive Director of the ACLU of Mississippi. Brown vs. Madison County is groundbreaking, in that it is one of the first consent decrees in the state of Mississippi to address racialized policing. At the time of the suit’s filing, black individuals were almost five times more likely than white people to be arrested in Madison County.
“When the Madison County Sheriff’s Department forced their way into my house and choked my disabled husband, they stole a piece of our humanity,” said Quinnetta Manning, a Madison County resident and named plaintiff in the lawsuit. “I know that every American citizen has rights, but the Madison County Sheriffs treated us as though we didn’t and made us feel less than American. I believe that this settlement agreement is not only a necessary step in reforming MCSD, but a necessary step in returning humanity to the black residents of Madison County.” This settlement came only after more than two years of intensive litigation. “The settlement contains provisions that will help ensure effective policing coupled with compliance with the protections of the United States Constitution,” said Jonathan Youngwood, a partner at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett. “This positive resolution illustrates the power of effective federal litigation before an independent judiciary.”