Does Capitol Police approach deserve a closer look?

By Christopher Young,

Contributing Writer,

Military service – 20+ years active-duty U.S. Navy – taught the importance of the concept of mission. All actions of an organization, division, department, or unit are inescapably tied to the mission. The mission is designed and developed by those at the top of the organization, then executed by those below.

Now comes the Office of the Capitol Police inside the relatively new Capitol Complex Improvement District (CCID). Due to Capitol Police shootings in recent months, substantial increase in patrols in residential areas, and reports of aggressive behavior, it seemed like a good time to take a closer look. 

The mission of the Office of Capitol Police, per their own website, is “to enhance the quality of life for employees, visitors, elected and appointed officials located within the boundaries of the Capitol Complex Improvement District within the City of Jackson, MS and properties named in Section 25-5-2 and 29-5-77 of the Mississippi Code of 1972 as amended. We can achieve this mission by working cooperatively with members of this community. We are obligated to conform to the United States Constitution to enforce the laws, preserve the peace, reduce fear and provide for a safe environment. The office is committed to reviewing ideas from the community in the development in its policies that directly affect all those who work at or visit facilities within our jurisdiction.”

It goes on further to state, “The Office of Capitol Police will follow fundamental principles and deliver its services in a way that preserves and advances democratic values. The office also protects the rights of all persons as guaranteed by the United States Constitution. The office is committed to maintaining the highest level of integrity and professionalism in all its operations. Professionalism, in a sense, means adherence to impeccable integrity and careful protection of the rights of those authorized to enforce the law.”

Certainly, a wordy mission. By comparison, JPD’s mission statement is one sentence – “The Jackson Police Department is committed to providing law enforcement services to the 175,000 citizens of the capitol city of the State of Mississippi with honor and integrity.”

Like JPD, the mission statements of other police departments in Mississippi; Pascagoula, Meridian, and Vicksburg to name a few, are all brief and unambiguously centered on serving the people. None, other than Capitol Police, speak about careful protection of the rights of those authorized to enforce the law.  

The words citizens, residents, and people of, are nowhere to be found in the mission of the CCID Police – which is technically a unit of the Mississippi Department of Safety, reporting to its commissioner Sean Tindell. Could that be where the disconnect is? They do say, “We can achieve this mission by working cooperatively with members of this community,” but the emphasis is “to enhance the quality of life for employees, visitors, elected and appointed officials located within the boundaries of the CCID within the City of Jackson.”

When Tindell met with community members last month, as the behest of Ward 3 Councilman Stokes, he vowed that “bad actors” in the Capitol Police would be held accountable. He also said there is a “criminal element” in Jackson “that is not used to being policed.” He went on to say, “Don’t sit here and complain about crime and death and murder and kids killing kids and tell me there’s respect for law enforcement. Because there’s not.” The Chief of the CCID Capitol Police, Bo Luckey, stated, “the way we’re going to police the area is not going to be the same as it’s been in the past, “per reporting by The Clarion-Ledger on October 2, 2022.  

Hinds County District 2 Supervisor David Archie, on-point echoing the concerns of many in our black city, stated at the meeting, “If you’re going to come into this community, please sir, I’m asking you not to come into this community like you’ve got all the answers.” 

What was the adage, “you can’t fit a square peg in a round hole.” There’s ample indication that this Capitol Police chief and public safety commissioner, both of whom are European American, intend to “clean up Dodge.” Who among us could argue that we need to do something about the level of crime and that we have plenty of cleaning up to do? As of this writing, we are at 130 homicides this year, barely below last year’s – highest per capita homicide rate in the country.

It is the way in which we bring about change that becomes important, especially when the vast majority of the murders are by young black men against young black men, and especially against Mississippi’s undeniable history of racism and oppression.

When asked for his perspective on the Capitol Police, Harvey Johnson Jr., three times elected as mayor of Jackson, shared that “I’m concerned and the reason for concern gets down to accountability.” He went on to say that “this is coming at a time when law enforcement agencies are under increased scrutiny all across the country, and in this case (Capitol Police) the concept of one person one vote gets circumvented because the structure tears down the voice of many who are impacted.” When asked about investigations into their own behavior, he indicated that “Capitol Police and Mississippi Bureau of Investigation report to the same agency head at the Department of Safety, and that presents a possible conflict. It is confusing to the citizens when a third party is carrying out law enforcement duties.”

Mindful that good ole Marshall Dillon never stopped trying to clean up Dodge City; one dead body at a time, let’s keep our eyes wide open as we try to make Jackson a safer place for all residents.

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