Madison Co. Sheriff Randy Tucker and his attorneys are denying allegations made by the American Civil Liberties Union in a federal lawsuit against the department that it unconstitutionally and systematically targets black residents in its policing practices.
“Madison County expressly denies that any systematic targeting of Black citizens in Madison County exists through the Madison County Sheriff’s Department,” states the response from Sheriff Tucker and the County, filed on Thursday.
The ACLU’s lawsuit accuses the sheriff’s department of running a “top-down program” of selectively targeting black communities with illegal policing tactics such as pedestrian checkpoints, roving roadblocks, “jump outs” by plainclothes deputies in unmarked cars, and home invasions without warrants.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of 10 plaintiffs who say they were stopped by sheriff’s deputies without cause.
But a response filed by attorneys for Tucker and Madison County denies any such practices.
The sheriff’s department receives requests from the under-staffed Canton Police Department, managers of apartment complexes and housing projects in predominantly black neighborhoods and businesses, asking the department to conduct roadblocks near those areas, the response says.
In addition to that, after reviewing records, roadblocks set up over the last three years were “almost equally located” in the southern and northern parts of the county, according to the department. Tucker and the department also deny any roadblocks or stops by law enforcement in improper attire.
“All personnel who conduct roadblocks are required to wear reflective or other identifying vests and to use certain lighting for their and the drivers’ safety,” the document states.
The response also cites a practice within the department called the Neighborhood Enhancement Team, or NET, that is carried out through the entire county.
“The teams do not concentrate their patrols to Black neighborhoods; instead, they are used in all facets of law enforcement in Madison County and are conducted throughout the county, regardless of the racial make-up of an areas,” the filing describes. “For example, they are disbursed at night in neighborhoods to combat crimes such as automobile break-ins, vandalism, and burglaries when these crimes are reported on a regular basis. They are also used in apartment complexes and on streets and highways for the purpose of combating crime and protecting residents from criminal activities.”
Tucker also points out that one of the defendants in the ACLU’s lawsuit, Khadafy Manning, has been arrested more than 20 times in Mississippi and has had criminal charges filed against him in Missouri.
In the complaint, Manning’s wife 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.
The sheriff’s department’s answer to the complaint, however, details a different version of events.
“Mr. Manning was asked to write a witness statement concerning a burglary that he, as well as his wife, had been observed witnessing. Mr. Manning was told that if he did not cooperate and provide the statement, he would be arrested for being accomplice in the crime,” the response states. “Mr. Manning was handcuffed after he was detained, but no unreasonable force was exercised against him while he was being detained.”