Aldermen vow to take “action” against police officer

Published 7:00 am Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Poplarville Board of Aldermen decided to take action against a Poplarville Police Officer who allegedly acted on his own accord when he shut down a community event last month.
According to a statement read by Board Attorney Nick Thompson during a special meeting Tuesday, the Board will take “appropriate disciplinary action against Officer (Bruce) Eades for his actions.”
Eades acted of his own volition, without orders or direction from Police Chief Butch Raby when he told organizers of the “Friday Night Lights Concert” held Aug. 18 that the concert needed to shut down, the statement reads.
Event organizers Darrick Williams, Danica Hart and Elizabeth Swindle spoke to the Board for the second time Tuesday, asking for their questions to be answered and action to be taken.
“We’re frustrated with lack of response and overall acknowledgement,” Williams said.
The group previously stated they felt discriminated and harassed by the police department because of the police officers’ presence and the demand to end the event early.
Hart said they were told by the Pearl River County Fairgrounds manager that as long as they hired security or off-duty police officers, they were in compliance.
The group questioned why on-duty police officers, allegedly as many as five, routinely patrolled the event.
After an executive session last week on the matter, where the Board heard testimony from the officers and Chief Raby, the Board made no decision, according to previous coverage.
After hearing similar complaints this week, in addition to those from Pearl River County NAACP President Jimmy Richardson, the Board entered into executive session again Tuesday night.
When the Board returned to open session, Thompson read a statement from the Board saying action would be taken against Eades, Poplarville Mayor Rossie Creel said in a phone interview Wednesday morning.
He said the Board would determine what that action will entail next week.
The Board also determined that the main complaint was against Eades, so no action would be taken against Poplarville officer Joe Bowman, who also patrolled the event as stated in coverage of last week’s meeting.
“There was no finding of any wrongdoing on his part,” Creel said.
Before the Board entered into executive session Tuesday, the group asked whether the department’s body cameras were in use.
“There’s some policy questions when it comes to use of body cameras,” Creel said.
It was unclear whether they were in use during the incident. According to previous coverage, the Poplarville Police Department changed the body camera policy last year.
The policy states, “officers will activate the unit to record during each citizen encounter related to a call for service…to assist in the performance of their duties as necessary and at the discretion of the officer.”
In previous coverage, Assistant 15th District Attorney Clay Cranford said the discretionary clause was added so officers wouldn’t have to turn the cameras on during regular conversations, a practice that would overwhelm the department’s storage capacity.
Creel said that because the policy was changed to add this discretionary clause, more investigation has to be conducted into whether the cameras were used or not.
The Board also decided to form a Community Relations subcommittee, made up of Alderman Kevin Tillman and Alderwoman Shirley Wilshire.
Creel said the goal of the group is to improve relations between the community in Poplarville and all city employees.
“We want to be together, we want to do things together as a community and get past anything that may divide us,” Creel said.

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About Julia Arenstam

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