A civil rights organization on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against the city of Lexington, Mississippi, and called for a federal investigation into what it described as “systemic and tolerated racism” of the city government and police service.
The lawsuit details past instances of police violence and misconduct against black residents. JULIAN, the organization that filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court for Southern Mississippi, said the incidents highlight a top-down problem of racism in a city where most residents are black and most people occupying leadership positions are white.
“According to data compiled by JULIAN and ACLU-Mississippi, the LPD habitually violated the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments, the fundamental right to free travel, and the Civil Rights Act,” the lawsuit alleges. “More than 200 black citizens have officially or informally complained that they have been harassed, arrested or fined for unsubstantiated reasons in the past year.”
JULIAN filed a complaint after the broadcast of recordings of Sam Dobbin, who was the city’s police chief at the time, using racial and homophobic slurs and bragging about killing several people as a police officer. The city’s board of aldermen voted 3-2 to remove Dobbins from his role after the recording aired, and he was fired July 20.
In the recording, Dobbins describes shooting a black man in a cornfield as “justified, bro”.
“I shot that n****r 119 times, OK?” he says in the expletive-laden recording that also includes the statement, “I don’t talk to fucking fags, I don’t talk to fucking f****ts.”
Dobbins also told a check-in officer that he had killed 13 people in his career and was proud that the Lexington community “feared” him, according to the lawsuit.
JULIAN is asking the court to issue a temporary restraining order against the Lexington Police Department to restrain officers from “threatening, coercing, harassing, assaulting, or interfering” with residents’ constitutional rights. The order would require the department to revise many of its policies related to policing, including those relating to excessive force and traffic stops, and the city to create a civilian enforcement review board. laws.
Black residents make up about 86% of Lexington, a city of less than 1,800 people. In his trial, JULIAN calls the municipality “tiny and deeply separated,” and says it is “controlled” by a wealthy white family, as well as a white mayor, former police chief, judge, and city attorney.
“Every branch of government is controlled by white people in an 86% black city,” Jill Collen Jefferson, president and founder of JULIAN, told HuffPost. “It’s Jim Crow at its best. What I want people to see is that it never stopped.
The lawsuit further alleges that Lexington police retaliated against members of the black community after a meeting where citizens gathered to discuss their grievances against the department on April 7. The most “outspoken” attendees of the meeting — Robert Harris and Darius Harris — were arrested after the meeting, the lawsuit reads.
“The baseless retaliation and arrests suffered by plaintiffs Robert and Darius Harris are consistent with LPD’s treatment of any black resident who stands up for himself, speaks out or dares to live his life in Lexington. In fact, plaintiffs Robert and Darius Harris had been falsely arrested in retaliation for opposing police harassment in the past,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit further alleges that between 2021 and 2022, numerous other black residents were falsely arrested, forced to undergo “baseless” searches and seizures, and were subjected to “unreasonable” force by Lexington cops. if they spoke out against their arrest.
The Lexington Police Department did not respond to requests for comment on the lawsuit.
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