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POLICE BRUTALITY OFTEN IGNORED IN MISSISSIPPI

police officers using force on a man

An in-depth investigation by the New York Times, Mississippi Today, and the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting found that in Mississippi, allegations of severe brutality and abuses of power by local sheriffs rarely lead to state investigations. State authorities are tasked with investigating shootings and in-custody deaths involving sheriffs and deputies, but there is no obligation to probe other potential misconduct.

 

The investigators reviewed dozens of federal lawsuits that described such misconduct, finding that at least 27 claims, including accusations of rape and brutal assault, did not result in state investigations. Numerous lawsuits described scenarios with video footage, medical records, eyewitness accounts, and substantial physical evidence. Several cases featured sworn statements from deputies acknowledging concerning behavior. Out of these, all except five resulted in settlements, with the court records not revealing the financial details.

 

In one high-profile case, Marquise Tillman led deputies on a high-speed chase through rural Mississippi, Sheriff Todd Kemp instructed his deputies to, “Shut him down and beat his ass.” Despite the sheriff's denial, his order was captured on tape and confirmed by four deputies under oath. However, the incident went uninvestigated.

 

Sheriffs in Mississippi’s 82 counties are elected and are not required to possess prior law enforcement experience or undergo police training. Upon assuming office, sheriffs have the authority to initiate investigations, command the application of force, and incarcerate individuals, thereby gaining control over nearly all facets of an inmate's daily life.

 

The pattern of police brutality and uninvestigated allegations highlights a systemic issue of accountability. The lack of investigations into these serious claims, even in cases with substantial evidence, underscores a long history of powerful rural sheriffs in Mississippi acting with little consequence.



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