“… Now, we need some answers!”, are the words that resonated with me after helping organize a call to action on the Saturday following Easter weekend.
What should have been a weekend of joy for new life for a family, was the reminisce of a fated evening for Mario Clark’s family of Jackson, MS. On February 14th, 2019, 911 got a call from Mrs.Shelia Ragland asking for assistance from medical authorities to help her son, Mario Clark, with a mental episode he was having. Instead, Jackson Police Department (JPD) responded, and consequently made matters worse. Mario Clark lost his life on Valentine’s day this year at the hands of JPD after being hogtied and beaten. Since then, his family has demanded answers to why this happened, who do they hold accountable for their suffering, and how do they prevent Jackson Police Department from inflicting this lost and pain on Jackson, MS residents ever again.
After expressing the negligence shown by the city of Jackson, Mario’s family, the Elder family, had simple questions for the city. Are the officers responsible for Mario Clark’s death still police, or able to be police anywhere else? How soon before this happens again to another person, family in Jackson, MS? They had one demand. Release the officers’ names.
The call to action was even simpler. Will the citizens of Jackson, MS, and anybody else who will stand with the Elder family while they demand these answers?
Jackson Police Department has made headlines since March 2018 until now for police shootings and killings. There has been all talk about transparency and reform since deaths by JPD have been revealed. I recall an article by Jackson Free Press in February that addressed how the city of Jackson pushed back on whether they should release the names of officers who have killed or involved in the shootings of Jackson citizens.
Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba signed an executive order in 2018 that would release the names of officers involved in shootings/fatal shootings within a 72 hour period of these incidents. This does not apply to officers involved in fatal beatings, which is the case with Clark’s death. A potential bill, the Law Enforcement Identity Protection Act, could also further protect officers involved in any killings of Mississippi citizens up to 6 months.
This is clearly not transparency and provides citizens with little to no guarantee of safety. After the death of a man in the Washington Addition, caused by a police beating, the city of Jackson even vowed to offer more “police surveillance in neighborhoods like Washington Addition to address violence”. More police and policing. That is certainly not the answer that helps Black communities sleep at night.
It has become a known fact that Black communities are over-policed. Black men and women, too, are often or always victims of police beatings, shootings, and killings.
More police are not the answer. Black Americans have been known to call the police for protection, but instead, have been met with violence and hostility by the police. Some citizens will even suggest reform, i.e. body cameras. Body cameras aren’t security or accountability though, any officer can turn their cameras off and say “I forgot to turn it on”.
Asking for the release of a name is not enough for me. Accountability goes far beyond naming a couple of people to take the fall. The entire city of Jackson, including its residents, have to take responsibility and action. I dream of a complete redo of the Jackson Police Department when what we have simply does not work. We can start with a police department that is not open to residents from other states. We can go further with educating ourselves on how police have always treated Black people and Black communities. A Black cop is still a cop following orders.
We have to rethink and re-evaluate how we deserve to live, what is true justice, and what keeps us safe, not what temporarily keeps us safe.
I challenge residents of Jackson to explore and create their own measures of safety when we know we can’t rely on the police to protect us. Until then, I’ll stand with the Elder family until they get answers. I stand against policing until something changes about how Jacksonians, and all Black people, are policed and over-policed.
by: Jess James
BYP 100 – JXN