Moss Point residents approach Aldermen on police brutality

By Sylvia Hall - bio | email

MOSS POINT, MS (WLOX)- The house was unusually packed at the Moss Point Board of Aldermen meeting Tuesday night. And most of the audience was there for the same reason - to voice complaints against the Moss Point Police Department.

"These police, they aren't professional," said Moss Point resident Nathan Gray. "I think they got them from; I don't even know where they get them from, I really don't know."

Over the past few months, Moss Point residents have raised several brutality complaints against the police department.  The latest official accusations were made by Antone Tolbert, who said he was arrested unfairly and suffered injuries from handcuffs.  He says he's now afraid to live in his own city.

"When you have to wake up every morning, wondering if something is going to happen to you today, and you have to worry about if the police are the ones that's the perpetrators, then we're in trouble," he said.

Thomas Burke also said he was arrested unnecessarily, after he called the police to handle a domestic dispute.  He worries about the police force as well.

"We don't have nobody to police the police," he said, "They police themselves."

But there's a problem with many of the accusations. Some of them were never filed with the Police Department.  Instead, they were handled by local NAACP President Curley Clark.  And Police Chief Sheila Smallman says Clark hasn't contacted her about the allegations, which she says are false.

"If he would just take out the time to just even give me a phone call, then we can discuss this matter or he would have a better insight on these complaints and he could see that they are unfounded," she said about Clark.

Moss Point Mayor Xavier Bishop advised the residents at the meeting to file complaints with the police department.  He promised that the city would consider every allegation that was handled properly.

Chief Smallman says she will thoroughly investigate every complaint filed at the police station.  She also says any bad behavior from a Moss Point police officer will be punished.

"As I've stated from the beginning of my tenure, I will not uphold my officers in any wrongdoing whatsoever," she said.

That promise isn't enough for some residents.  The majority of people with complaints against the Police Department are also fighting for the reinstallation of a citizen's review board in Moss Point.  The review board would be a group of citizens that would check the power of local government.

Curley Clark has asked for the creation of such a board, but his request was shut down. Many residents still say such a board would be beneficial to Moss Point.

"What we need are some eyeballs," said Burke, "We need somebody to police the police. Because right now, them policing themselves just isn't getting it done."