Man Says Biloxi Police Harassed Him With "Sidewalk Charge" - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

11/18/03

Man Says Biloxi Police Harassed Him With "Sidewalk Charge"

A Gulfport man claims he was falsely arrested for video taping Biloxi police officers making a drug arrest. Morris Wallace was first charged with "obstructing a sidewalk" and ordered to pay a $180 fine. After he filed a formal complaint, police agreed to drop the charge. But, as Steve Phillips explains, that wasn't the end of it.

Morris Wallace will get his fine money back, but he also wants city leaders to know how he was treated. That's why he took his story, and his video tape, to the Biloxi City Council Tuesday.

The incident happened along Pass Road, near MacArthur. It was just after midnight when Wallace saw someone he knew being arrested. He pulled over and pulled out his video camera.

Wallace says he never got belligerent or gave the officers any trouble. The officers told him he was loitering. That began the talk of him obstructing the sidewalk.

"We got to haggling about it and he said, 'you're obstructing the sidewalk.' So, I stepped back off the sidewalk. And he said, 'now you're on city property' and so we were kind of like, 'can I stand here? Can I stand here?'," Wallace said.

Wallace says his video supports his story. Wallace took his concerns and his video tape to the Biloxi City Council. Council members listened, then requested a follow up report from police.

"I feel the consensus, I hope, of the council is that we will be given some sort of report relative to this incident," Ward 2 Councilman Eric Dickey said.

"The Biloxi police department enjoys an excellent reputation. And as soon as this incident was reported, we began an internal investigation which is still ongoing. And as soon as that's finished, we'll take the appropriate action," Mayor Holloway said.

There is a law in Biloxi against obstructing a sidewalk. It was passed several years ago to keep people, especially drug dealers. from congregating on the sidewalks. Police spokesman Jackie Rhodes says hundreds of people have been arrested on the charge since the law was created.

by Steve Phillips

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