Breaking News – NAACP plans monitoring of Poplarville Police

Published 8:37 pm Saturday, March 21, 2009

Police handling of a recent traffic stop incident in which a motorist received a gunshot wound has the county NAACP chapter questioning if Poplarville police procedures need to be reviewed.

The Rev. Jimmy Richardson, president of the Pearl River County Branch of the NAACP, said Friday in a telephone interview he also was concerned both as a citizen and as a representative of the NAACP that the officer in question was back on duty after four days off.

He said when the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation completed its report the NAACP was considering asking for an FBI investigation into the matter to see if the civil rights of Warren and his companion had been violated. The NAACP’s concerns are as a result of incidents during a routine police check point on Highway 53 near Balmoral Drive.

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Poplarville Police Chief Charles Fazende said in a telephone interview Saturday that he and Poplarville Mayor Billy Spiers had a positive meeting Thursday with Richardson and a state NAACP representative about these concerns.

On Thursday night, March 5, Mississippi resident Kirmon Warren Jr. and an a unnamed female friend were stopped at the checkpoint and Warren was asked for driver’s license and registration, according to the Poplarville Police Department release.

As reported earlier, a struggle between Warren and one of the Poplarville officers resulted in Warren being tazed. When the incident continued Warren received a gunshot wound to his left shoulder.

Richardson said the gunshot came through the rear driver’s side window. He said the female companion with Warren on the front passenger’s side of the car had glass fragments on her but was apparently not seriously injured. Richardson said the woman was the owner of the car.

Richardson said he was told the reason for the police actions was that they thought they saw a weapon “but a weapon was never found.” He said Warren and the woman said there never was a weapon in the car.

According to previous reports Warren managed to speed off but was stopped a few miles later on Highway 26 East near the Catfish Cottage fish house.

Richardson said when it was later learned the officer was back on duty with his firearm it was then that the NAACP concerns about the police department’s procedures came to the fore.

Fazende said he made the decision to allow the officer back on patrol after having in depth conversations with him. Fazende said he discussed counseling with the officer and, while the officer did not oppose counseling, he felt he did not need it.

Fazende said he gave careful thought to the matter before allowing the officer to return to duty.

“The buck stops here,” Fazende said. “In retrospect I probably should not have given the officer the option of not doing counseling,” but felt the officer had done his job.

He also said the Thursday meeting made him aware that certain additional procedures should be in place in the department. “They brought up some good points,” Fazende said, and said the department looked to make some changes.

Fazende said the department was sensitive to the concerns of the public and appreciated groups within the community that wanted to work with them.

As far as specific details about events concerning the original traffic stop, Fazende said he could not comment further until the state report had been completed and returned to him.

Rev. Richardson said the NAACP would continue to monitor the situation and hoped that the Poplarville Board of Aldermen would rule on the matter of procedures and not leave it in the hands of the chief of police.