ACLU: Madison Co. sheriff targets African-Americans

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Madison Co. Sheriff's Department

Madison Co. Sheriff Randy Tucker

The American Civil Liberties Union is suing the Madison County sheriff’s department for what it says is unfair and unconstitutional policing that targets African-Americans.

The federal lawsuit accuses the sheriff’s department of running a “top-down program” of selectively targeting black communities with unconstitutional policing tactics such as “show-ID-and-search pedestrian checkpoints, roving roadblocks, ‘jump outs’ by plainclothes deputies in unmarked cars, and warrantless home invasions,” a release from the ACLU stated.

Heath Hall, spokesman for the Madison Co. Sheriff’s Department, said Tuesday afternoon Tucker had been served with the lawsuit in the past hour. He said it is the department’s policy not to comment on pending litigation.

A request for comment from Madison Co. attorney Katie Bryant Snell was not returned.

“The Madison County Sheriff’s Department routinely targets black people through widespread stops, searches and arrests that are not based on reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, but on race,” the ACLU’s release stated. “These practices frequently use unjustified and excessive force.”

Black people are almost five times more likely than white people to be arrested in Madison County, according to the ACLU. Despite a black population of only 38 percent, 73 percent of arrests made between May and October of 2016 were arrests of black people, the organization claims.

The complaint was filed in federal court by 10 individuals who were stopped by law enforcement in Madison “absent any wrongdoing.” The defendants are Madison County, Madison County Sheriff Randy Tucker and six unnamed sheriff’s deputies.

ACLU of Mississippi

Quinetta Manning, plaintiff in the ACLU’s lawsuit against Madison Co. and the Madison Co. Sheriff’s Department.

The lawsuit specifically accuses Tucker of: enacting or upholding a written roadblock policy that promotes roadblocks based on race; not investigating a black deputy’s complaint or racially discriminatory policing practices and use of excessive force against African-Americans; hiring a deputy with a history of misconduct; not establishing any rules to prohibit racial bias; deciding not to maintain basic data on the department’s policing practices, such as dates and locations of roadblocks; and not keeping records of complaints against his deputies.

One plaintiff, Quinnetta Manning, said when she refused to allow sheriff’s deputies into her home, they forced their way inside and threatened both her and her husband with jail time if they did not submit false witness statements. When they refused, the deputies handcuffed her husband, choked him and began calling him derogatory names relating to his disability, she said. The deputies then allegedly dragged him down the stairs and beat him until he agreed to write the false statement.

“I know that every American citizen has rights, but the Madison County police treated us like we didn’t have any rights,” Manning said. “Taking my husband away from our home not only embarrassed him, but made us feel less than American. How can we show our children that we can protect them and keep them safe when the police can just come in my house whenever they want without cause? Now I’m scared to leave the house in fear of what may happen if I encounter the police.”

The lawsuit alleges the sheriff’s department’s practices violate both the Fourth Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The ACLU is working with Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP, an international law firm headquartered in New York City.

The ACLU provided a video of the incident involving Manning and her husband, saying the video was filmed by Manning on a smartphone: