On Oct. 6, the Mississippi Center for Justice (MCJ) and the MacArthur Justice Center at the University of Mississippi School of Law announced a settlement with the City of Jackson and Police Chief James E. Davis addressing the Jackson Police Department’s roadblock policy known as “Ticket, Arrest, and Tow” or “TAT.” Jackson has agreed to overhaul its roadblock policies and submit to federal court enforcement of the settlement.
“This settlement is a critical victory for the Jackson community and the City of Jackson,” said Vangela M. Wade, President and CEO of MCJ. “Checkpoints—which don’t fight crime—are costly and wreak havoc on disproportionately impacted poor and Black communities. Under this settlement, the harmful impacts of checkpoints will be greatly curbed.”
The settlement results from a community-led class-action lawsuit, Rhoades v. City of Jackson, which was brought on behalf of several Mississippians who live or work in Jackson and regularly drive in majority Black and low-income neighborhoods where the plaintiffs said the roadblocks disproportionately occurred. The plaintiffs, in conjunction with the Mississippi Alliance for Public Safety (MAPS), raised concerns about Jackson’s TAT roadblocks and explained to lawyers how they were forced to endure repeated delays as they attempted to get to work on time, pick up children from school, and make it to medical appointments.
According to both data and testimony collected by MAPS, TAT caused a multitude of unnecessary harms to already struggling poor and working-class Jacksonians. “It was implemented with little to no consideration for the daily realities of and impacts on the people of
Jackson, a city with a poverty rate exceeding 24%. Indiscriminate over-policing of people in poverty is not an effective or acceptable public safety policy,” said Lea Campbell, of MAPS.
The lawsuit argued that TAT roadblocks were unreasonable searches and seizures in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Jackson’s Mayor and Chief Davis stated publicly that TAT roadblocks were being used for general crime control purposes, but the United States Supreme Court has said such use of roadblocks is similar to the police routinely entering people’s homes to search for evidence of criminal behavior and violates the Fourth Amendment.
“Deploying roadblocks doesn’t address violent crime, it wastes precious resources, and using them to try and fight crime violates residents’ constitutional rights,” said Paloma Wu, Deputy Director of Impact Litigation at MCJ. “We are pleased to have worked for community groups and with the City of Jackson to arrive at this settlement to systematically reduce harm when the City opts to use roadblocks.
The settlement requires a new Jackson Police Department policy that prohibits the use of roadblocks for general crime control, requires roadblocks to be evenly distributed across Jackson, specifies the limited circumstances under which people may be arrested at a roadblock, and addresses practical issues such as the towing and retrieval of cars. JPD also is required to collect and report data regarding its use of roadblocks, which will be made publicly available here, and distribute know-your-rights flyers to people ticketed or arrested at roadblocks.
“We understand that people are concerned about violent crime in Jackson and are demanding that law enforcement take action. But we must make certain that new initiatives by the police make good sense and don’t violate people’s rights. Studies show clearly that efforts like illegal roadblocks and hyper-enforcement of misdemeanor offenses are destabilizing and actually cause more crime,” said Cliff Johnson, Director of the MacArthur Justice Center at the University of Mississippi School of Law.
MAPS and the plaintiffs actively participated in negotiating the requirements of Jackson’s new roadblock policy and are pleased with the settlement. The settlement demonstrates how grassroots efforts led by residents and highlighting their experiences can bring about meaningful change.
Campbell, of MAPS added, “This settlement stems from the work of activists and residents who are not afraid to speak truth to power and hold those in power accountable. We are grateful for all the residents of Jackson who were willing to come forward to share their experiences with TAT and work collectively to craft solutions. We cannot police and incarcerate our way out of our problems together. We commend JPD and the City administration for their willingness to listen to the concerns of and solutions brought forward by impacted Jacksonians and reconsider and reconfigure the roadblock policy into one that centers fairness, transparency, and accountability.”
Press Release from the MacArthur Justice Center