Jackson, MS - Black drivers and pedestrians who travel in majority Black neighborhoods in Madison County are disproportionately stopped at roadblocks and subjected to searches and seizures by the Madison County Sheriff’s Department, according to more than six-months of evidence collected thus far by the ACLU of Mississippi. The evidence, which was presented in court filings as part of a motion for class certification in Brown v. Madison County, shows what has been felt in communities of color for decades: that the Madison County Sheriff’s Department operates a policing program that targets Black people and Black communities on the basis of race.
Attorneys with the ACLU of MS, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the law firm of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP presented data during a news conference that reflects how MCSD’s culture of discrimination directly impacts its policing of Madison County. The law enforcement agency has implemented and enforced an unwritten policy and longstanding practice of racially profiling Black individuals and disproportionately targeting Black communities through roadblocks, pedestrian stops, and other aggressive tactics.
The data shows that while Black residents make up only 38% of Madison County’s population, between 2012 and 2017:
- Black individuals accounted for 77% of all arrests made by MCSD;
- Black individuals accounted for 72% of all citations by MCSD;
- Nearly 76% of MCSD arrests at roadblocks were of Black individuals; and
- More than 74% of MCSD arrests at traffic stops were of Black individuals.
“MCSD’s own paperwork confirms that it targets Black citizens for arrest,” said Joshua Tom, legal director for the ACLU of MS. “In the course of our class certification discovery, MCSD officials produced template forms that deputies use in the course of their duties, and on those forms from at least two officers appear pre-populated checkboxes marking ‘black,’ ‘male,’ and ‘arrested.’ The evidence will show discriminatory and unconstitutional policing, and we are looking forward to presenting all of the facts as our case moves forward.”
The eight named plaintiffs proposed as class representatives are Black people—men and women ages 28 to 63—who were unconstitutionally stopped, searched, or arrested by the MCSD, sometimes violently, while they were merely walking to work, driving in their neighborhood, celebrating with family, or just spending time in their own homes.
Lawrence Blackmon is one of those plaintiffs. A MCSD deputy tackled and handcuffed him at gunpoint after he asked to see a warrant before allowing officers to enter into his home. He remained handcuffed while the officers searched his home, possibly without a valid warrant, in violation of the law. This incident “would not have happened to me if I were a white person,” said Blackmon.
“The data regarding MCSD’s policing practices is significant. Ending discriminatory policing will improve the lives of thousands of citizens in Madison County,” said Jonathan Youngwood, co-chair of the Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP’s litigation department.
This lawsuit seeks reforms that safeguard constitutional rights by promoting bias-free and evidence-based policing, transparency, and police accountability. The lawsuit also seeks improved training, supervision, monitoring, and discipline of MCSD personnel, and the collection and public release of data on all roadblocks, stops, and searches conducted by MCSD to permit further analysis of policing practices for compliance with the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.
For the class certification motion, please visit: https://www.aclu-ms.org/sites/default/files/as-filed_memorandum_iso_class_cert.pdf
Co-counsel Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP is handling the case pro bono. For more information, please visit: https://www.stblaw.com/.