The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit representing 10 plaintiffs who have alleged mistreatment-accusing the Madison County Sheriff’s Department of imposing a permanent state of siege against the county’s African-American residents.  The lawsuit alleges that the sheriff’s department has maintained multiple roadblocks and checkpoints in majority-black neighborhoods, where African-American residents are subjected to illegal searches.

Of the ten plaintiffs, one has been stopped at the roadblocks at least 20 times in the previous year, according to the complaint.  At least four of the plaintiffs have had their homes raided by MCSD deputies who allegedly entered without warrants. Two of the plaintiffs were severely beaten by officers during confrontations, the suit claims.

The suit seeks a class-wide judgment declaring the department’s policies unconstitutional. A number of the plaintiffs are also seeking compensatory and punitive damages.  Along with the county, the suit lists MCSD Sheriff Randall Tucker and six unnamed deputies as defendants.

The lawsuit alleges the county’s roadblocks and pedestrian “checkpoints” are designed and placed to target black people for searches and seizures in majority-black neighborhoods and outside of majority-black housing complexes, even when they are not suspected of crimes.  The suit seeks a court order to stop the sheriff’s department from using such tactics and asks that a civilian board review complaints against the department.  It also asks for increased training and monitoring of officers.

Madison County is Mississippi’s wealthiest county with a per capita income in 2015 of around $58,000.  The most recent Census estimates that of the 105,000 residents-roughly 57% are white and 38% are black.   According to the lawsuit, Madison County’s wealth is concentrated among its white residents.  The complaint cites census figures that the arrest rate for black people in the county is nearly five times the rate for white people.

The ACLU says the disparity can’t be explained by nonracial factors and argues that the county has harbored a long history of “racial animus” toward its black residents. It notes that a previous sheriff was on the board of a citizens group that opposed desegregation in the 1950s, and says other authorities had used racially discriminatory policing tactics.

The ACLU alleges that Sheriff Randy Tucker, who has been in office since 2012,as ceased keeping track of civilian complaints of his department regarding racially-motivated policing. The lawsuit added that the Madison County Sheriff’s Department  has implemented a coordinated top-down program of methodically targeting Black individuals for suspicion-less searches and seizure ” while in their cars, walking in their neighborhoods or while in their own homes”.   Unjustified and excessive forces are routine occurrences during policing actions during these searches and seizures-leaving many residents afraid to leave their homes.

 

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