Federal lawsuit filed alleging the Lexington Police Department of Misconduct and targeting African-American residents

Published: Aug. 17, 2022 at 10:48 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - A federal lawsuit has been filed, claiming the Lexington Police Department has been harassing and targeting African American residents.

It accuses the department of assaulting and threatening residents for nearly a year.

The lawsuit is filed against the City of Lexington, LPD, Interim Police Chief Charles Henderson, and former Police Chief Sam Dobbins.

Dobbins was fired as police chief just last month after an audio recording was released filled with expletives and racist comments.

City leaders said Dobbins was the one heard in the recording.

This 41-page lawsuit states “Between June 27, 2021, and May 17, 2022, LPD only arrested seven White individuals but arrested over 100 Black individuals during the same period.”

According to the lawsuit, over 40 percent of those arrests were for minor traffic stops such as “Disregarding a traffic device or no proof of insurance that would typically result in a ticket.”

”A lot of people talk about a rotten apple or a few rotten apples, this is not what that is, this is a rotten tree,” said Jill Jefferson, founder and president of Julian, a civil rights legal advocacy organization that filed the lawsuit. “We need to root it out and figure out how far that rot goes.”

Jefferson said the federal lawsuit gives examples of the alleged misconduct by Lexington Police against the five plaintiffs listed.”

In pulling some of the plaintiffs’ stories there’s Darius Harris, LPD on New Year’s Eve (2021), targeted and harassed he and his brother Robert when they were shooting fireworks on their private property,” Jefferson recalled. “LPD cited a fireworks ordinance and said they were in violation of it, when actually what LPD cited wasn’t even law.”

The lawsuit spells out more details of alleged misconduct by LPD.”

Robert Harris, a respected anti-drug activist, reports that he witnessed an officer plant drugs in his vehicle,” the lawsuit reads. “LPD also alleged that the brothers had outstanding warrants but refused to provide copies of said warrants.”

Jefferson blames city leaders for letting this alleged behavior go on for so long.”

These trumped-up charges, these fines all of this stuff that’s being fabricated basically against residents who are being targeted,  it’s bringing money into the city, that’s the other big thing,” said Jefferson. “They’re making money off the conditional violations so why would they want it to stop They’re putting money into the city’s coffers.”

Jefferson said they are now calling for a federal investigation into LPD, the firing of the interim police chief, a restraining order against LPD, a civilian complaint review board, and to have the governor deploy an outside agency to police the city’s police department, just to name a few.

“At Governor Tate Reeves’ disposal, by law, he has investigators, the Mississippi National Guard, the Mississippi State Guard, and the Highway Patrol, he can deploy any of these law enforcement agencies at will, especially in a moment like this where it’s a crisis moment in Lexington,” Jefferson explained. “He very much needs to do that.”

We reached out to Lexington Mayor Robin McCrory, Interim police Chief Charles Henderson, and former Chief Sam Dobbins for a comment, we are still waiting to hear back.

Listed below is the full 41-page lawsuit.

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