Citizens bring complaints about police action to council

Published 5:54 pm Wednesday, June 4, 2008

A seemingly routine City Council meeting became charged with accusations of police brutality growing out of an incident that occurred on May 25.

After Picayune’s City Council approved a number of routine items, and council member Leavern Guy abstained from voting on the claims docket, city residents spoke out against alleged police brutality.

Requita Magee was the first to voice her opinion during the citizens’ concerns part of the meeting. She alleged police officers abused a number of people at a graduation party. She said it is distressing that community members are afraid of the people who are supposed to protect them, police officers.

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“The only thing they want to serve and protect are their egos,” Magee said.

She then asked council members if they have ever been awakened in the middle of the night because their child was pulled over on the way to a friend’s house. Magee said when her child asked why he was being pulled over, he was told to “shut up.” She also described an alleged incident that night where an officer grabbed a child and threw the child to the ground for asking the officer what was going on.

Magee asked the council to recognize what is going on with the department instead of following the “buddy-buddy system”. She called for a thorough investigation of the department and asked the council not to wait until someone is severely hurt.

“I say to you that the blood will be on your hands,” Magee said.

Mayor Greg Mitchell then asked Police Chief Jim Luke to comment on Magee’s allegations. Luke said if anyone feels he or she has been treated unfairly by an officer that person should file a complaint with the police department and it will be investigated. Complaints, investigations into complaints and the results of those investigations are posted in the department’s lobby.

“We always try to have a transparent organization,” Luke said. “There’s three sides to every story. We certainly want to get to the right side.”

Luke said if there ever was a person who will not tolerate improper officer behavior, it is him. He mentioned the department’s current status of national accreditation and said he is proud of the department and its officers.

City resident Yvette Burton said she has attempted to go through the proper channels to file her complaint, but instead got the run around. A call to the police department referred her to the District Attorney’s office. Contact with the District Attorney’s office sent her to the FBI. She said her pregnant 17 year-old child was thrown to the ground during the incident of May 25.

Katrina Bogan, the woman’s house where the incident took place, said she was simply trying to give her daughter a graduation party, but the party turned sour when officers kicked in her door and arrested her. Bogan said she was arrested for the language she used to explain a traffic stop in front of her home. When she went to file a complaint about her treatment by the officers, she too was referred to the District Attorney’s office and then the FBI.

Guy then made a motion to take all of the testimony at the council meeting under consideration and make it part of the council’s minutes.

Luke asked the residents to contact him on Wednesday so he can explain how the complaint system works.

In other business the council went into executive session to discuss the possible sale of land, possible litigation and contractual matters with Farmer Fresh Produce, Pearl River County Utility Authority, Picayune School District and Police Department and the board of supervisors. Interim City Manager Harvey Miller said after the executive session that the council agreed to the sale of 2.44 acres of land to New Palestine Church for $28,067, approved an adjustment of Farmer Fresh Produce’s land deed to fix an error, approved a resolution to transfer the city’s sewer rehabilitation loan to the Utility Authority, approved a contract between the school district and the police department for $120,000 to provide three school resource officers and accepted a road donation from the county. The roads are off of Telly Road. The approval is contingent on the developer constructing the proper infrastructure. As for the pending litigation, Miller said the council acknowledged that Dailey Estates has filed an injunction against the city for denying their preliminary plat for the proposed subdivision at the end of Central Avenue. The council previously denied that request since the plat was in a flood zone.

The council also;

— Approved a request from Sam and Billi Meeks to have a block party at 421 N. Juniper St., blocked off on June 29 from 4-10 p.m. contingent on the couple discussing security with the police department.

— Approved Luke to travel to Winston-Salem, NC, for ROCIC required training June 8-11, and travel to Pigeon Forge, Tenn., on June 16 to speak at the Mississippi School Resource Officers Conference.

— Approved police department investigators Holly Krantz, Jeremy Magri and Michael Odom to travel to Orlando Florida to the International Narcotics Enforcement Officers Association.

— Accepted the lowest bid from Vinson Uniforms for police department uniforms.

— Approved the Fire Department to apply to the Mississippi Department of Health for a grant to conduct a Fire Academy for Kids camp.

The next meeting is at 6 p.m. June 17.