Stokes draws outrage over controversial comment

From staff reports

Jackson’s Ward 3 City Councilman Kenneth Stokes’ recent comments on how he would handle police from other jurisdictions who pursue suspects into the city have garnered national attention.

On Dec. 31, 2015, in an interview with local media Stokes said, “What I suggest, we get the black leadership together and as these jurisdictions come into Jackson we throw rocks and bricks and bottles at them. That’ll send a message, we don’t want you in here.”

The comments were made after Ward 3 residents expressed their concerns to Stokes following a Dec. 24 chase in the area that reportedly involved officers from three outside cities.

Some of the initial responses from Stokes’ statement came from other law enforcement agencies.

Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey called Stokes’ statements “complete ignorance.” Bailey went on to say that young people who may not understand the law could be persuaded to act on Stokes’ suggestion and get hurt.

Madison County Sheriff Randy Tucker said he will hold Stokes responsible if a Madison County law enforcement officer was harmed as a result of Stokes’ comments.

On Jan. 1, Gov. Phil Bryant released a statement in response to Stokes’ comments.

“Mr. Stokes’ remarks are reprehensible, particularly with the attacks we have seen against our men and women in law enforcement. I condemn any such remarks in the strongest possible manner. This is nothing short of an outright assault upon all who wear the badge. I will be asking Attorney General Jim Hood to investigate whether Mr. Stokes’ remarks represent criminal threats against law enforcement officers.”

On Jan. 2, Attorney General Jim Hood issued a statement saying, “Comments or actions that put our law enforcement officers in harm’s way cannot be tolerated. Frustration or dissatisfaction with police policies or procedures does not give any person, especially an elected official, the right to jeopardize the safety of officers. Certainly, the Office of Attorney General will investigate any complaint received in this or any other matter.”

Jackson City Council members weighed in on his comments Jan. 2 with a statement.

“As president of the City Council I can say unequivocally that Councilman Stokes’ comments are indefensible and do not represent the Jackson City Council or the City of Jackson. Following Councilman Stokes’ comments, I have spoken personally with the other members of the council and we are in agreement that the Jackson City Council does not support any calls for acts of violence against those who serve as members of law enforcement.”

Councilman Priester stated further, “Moving forward, it is imperative that we renew our efforts to work with surrounding communities to find common ground regarding regional pursuits and the safety concerns posed by high speed chases in the metro area. I hope that Councilman Stokes’ unfortunate and unacceptable words do not prevent us from achieving an effective regional pursuit policy throughout the metro area.”

Statements from local and state leaders kept coming.

Jackson Mayor Tony Yarber released a statement saying, “This administration has worked tirelessly to create a seamless city where race and class work as partners and not as antagonists. We have made great strides in our efforts to build political bridges inside and outside of the city. An integral part of this task has included the many joint efforts by the Jackson Police Department collaborating with outside law enforcement agencies. This approach has resulted in the development of a family relationship that is formidable and cohesive in its goal of serving and protecting all citizens. Any challenges that we face in this area will continue to be resolved in an honorable and peaceful manner.”

Yarber’s statement was released Jan. 3 following a press conference Stokes had earlier in the day at City Hall. During that press conference, Stokes said, “Race is a factor in the blatant disregard for the public safety of innocent children and elderly citizens in unlawful chases by outside jurisdictions through the inner city neighborhoods of Jackson, Miss.

“We have asked the United States Department of Justice to investigate the ever increasing incidents of unlawful chases through the streets of Jackson, Miss. … despite repeated attempts being made to end the unlawful practice.”

Stokes emphasized that the chases into Jackson from neighboring cities and counties are not warranted when suspects have been accused of misdemeanor crimes. “We’re not talking about bank robbers, not talking about murderers. We are not talking about kidnappers,” Stokes said.

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