From [ClarionLedger] State Rep. Mark Baker of Brandon said he will introduce a bill in the 2019 Legislature to prevent the city of Jackson naming police officers involved in fatal shootings until investigations are complete.
Last year, Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba adopted the recommendation of a task force to release the identities of JPD officers in officer-involved shooting deaths in a 72-hour time frame absent a credible threat to the officer's safety.
"I'm going to introduce legislation to prevent that," Baker said recently.
Baker, a Republican candidate for state attorney general this year, said, "We don't want to put lives of officers at risk."
Baker, chairman of the House Judiciary A Committee, named the Jackson policy as one of his legislative agenda items this session, which begins Tuesday.
Other items he plans to pursue include Mississippi Department of Corrections funding for sheriffs housing state prisoners, reauthorizing the state's administrative forfeiture law, which ended in June after the Legislature didn't extend the law; and seeking passage of a terroristic threats law.
Baker called the Jackson officer-involved shooting deaths policy a legislative priority.
Lumumba, in a statement issued Monday, said: “We stand behind our executive order as it represents a community-focused and driven approach to how we create transparency and an improved relationship between law enforcement and our community. Not only did we have an engaged process which allowed our communities to weigh into this process, not only did we look at national trends and information available to us, we actually had active members of law enforcement participate in this process."
Lumumba said once the opportunity was given for all sides to be heard, it was a unanimous decision to go forward.
"And, while there is an effort to undermine a grassroots, community-driven effort, we stand behind the proposition that this is what is best for Jackson and ultimately is what is best for communities that resemble Jackson around the nation,” Lumumba said.
Lumumba appointed the task force, the first of its kind, to review how the department could be more transparent in dealing with an issue that has taken on both local and national significance. It follows a rise in officer-involved shooting deaths in the capital city and increased attention to the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of law enforcement nationwide. The task force had reached out to Mississippi Bureau of Investigation officials to get their thoughts, but MBI refused to meet, task force chairman C.J. Lawrence said late last year.
After the city adopted the policy, MBI said it would no longer conduct the examinations of officer-involved shootings in Jackson, citing major issues with the city's policy.
"It is MBI’s protocol to not release names of witnesses or officers involved in such cases while the case/investigation is pending," the Mississippi Department of Public Safety said in a statement.
DPS said that in most cases, 72 hours is too early to determine whether there's a credible threat.
Jackson had four separate officer-involved shootings between November 2017 and March 2018.
DPS conducts investigations into line-of-duty shootings in most jurisdictions in the state, and Jackson has long been the subject of public scrutiny because it investigated its own through its internal affairs division.
Lumumba said at the time of adopting the policy that JPD doesn't have the issues some police departments have, but he sees it as an opportunity for police and citizens to work together. He said he will ask the task force to continue working to address excessive force and whether the city should have a citizen review board.