Rep. Shanda Yates, I-Jackson, presents legislation in House Chamber at the Mississippi Capitol, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023, in Jackson. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis - Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Rep. Yates called the revisions to the CCID boundary a last-ditch effort for the capital city while Rep. Blackmon criticized the bill, saying there would be no joy in the black community if it becomes law.
On Wednesday, the Mississippi House passed Senate Bill 2343, amending the bill and inserting a strike-all amendment with language from HB 696, which revises boundary lines of the Capitol Complex Improvement District (CCID). This revision is to allow the Capitol Police to expand its reach and assist the City of Jackson in policing the area.
State Representative Shanda Yates (I) introduced the legislation on the floor to the House.
“The strike-all simply inserts the language from House Bill 696 that we previously passed which clarifies and extends the boundary lines of the CCID,” Representative Yates said.
The northern most boundary line of the CCID would be County Line Road and the eastern-most boundary line would be the Pearl River until it intersects near downtown with I-55.
“The western-most boundary and the southern-most boundary are largely unchanged, with the exception of tweaking a couple of blocks that were sort of confusing and inverted triangle areas and sort of just trying to straighten those areas out,” Rep. Yates told the Magnolia Tribune.
Yates explained that the original purpose of the Capitol Police was to patrol state buildings, but they are now an actual police force. The officers are all under the Department of Public Safety (DPS).
Some lawmakers, including those in the Jackson delegation, expressed concern with the legislation.
State Representative Kabir Karriem (D) asked how the “911 calls” would be handled with the expansion of the CCID. He said right now, the Capitol Police doesn’t have the capacity to take 911 calls. They referred by the Jackson Police Department (JPD).
“That is an ongoing problem and something that we hope is going to flesh out,” Rep. Yates responded. “We are still working on that. As of right now, if you call 911 and you live in the City of Jackson, you’re probably not going to get an answer from anyone, JPD or Capitol Police, at all.”
Yates was critical of JPD’s response and ability to police the city. She said that when most people need the police in Jackson, they call Capitol Police directly or they hope they have a precinct captain or someone they know that can assist.
“If you’re in trouble in Jackson, you don’t call 911 because you’re not going to get any help,” Yates said.
“If you call 911, you won’t get any assistance in Jackson,” Rep. Karriem said, asking for clarification.
Rep. Yates said you would more than likely not get an answer.
“If I’m pulled over who comes to that? If I’m stopped by the Jackson Police Department, does Capitol Police supersede their jurisdiction,” Rep. Karriem asked.
Rep. Yates said right now, Capitol Police has jurisdiction with the CCID, and the boundary lines of the CCID, according to JDP and Capitol Police, are confusing.
“They don’t know where the boundary lines are, where they stop and start. Citizens don’t know where they stop and start. They ask that the boundary lines especially in the northern portion be clarified,” Yates said. “That is a large reason for this bill and what it does. So that the citizens can know who they call if they need help because 911 isn’t it, and so everyone can have police protection if and when they need it.”
Yates added that there’s nothing in the bill other than the actual boundary lines, adding that the Capitol Police and DPS have assured her that these boundary lines are within their operational capabilities.
State Representative Zakiya Summers (D) questioned Yates’ claims about calling 911, saying members got an answer right away when they called.
“I don’t want this body or anybody that is listening to this debate to receive from you that 911 is not working and that people will not receive help,” Summers said.
Yates responded by saying that she has had friends who have been in car accidents or had their homes invaded and more who have called 911 and did get an answer but were put on hold.
“911 is broken,” Yates said. “If you happen to get an answer right now, you are lucky because you may or may not get an answer in the middle of an emergency.”
Rep. Summers questioned Yates on the real intent of expanding the CCID. Rep. Yates said the House had hearings over the summer and Capitol Police and JPD both said multiple times that the boundary lines are confusing and wanted the boundary lines to be clarified.
Ultimately, Rep. Yates told the House that this bill is a last-ditch effort for people in Jackson who were tired of the crime and the lack of safety in the city. While some lawmakers challenged her on the new lines and the need for the Capitol Police to supplement the city’s police force, Yates asked the body, “What is the problem with doing something that could help?”
State Representative Robert Johnson (D), the House Minority Leader, said that there are multiple costs that will be involved here that no-one is talking about for a police force that can’t police, referring to the Capitol Police.
Johnson said Yates’ intentions are right and agreed that there’s a serious crime problem. But Rep. Johnson said it’s something that lawmakers need to take time to look at instead of acting now in this manner.
“I’m not against what she’s trying to do,” Johnson said, adding that the issue needs more work.
State Representative Ed Blackmon (D) said this is by far the “most depressing session of the Legislature that he has seen,” saying that the citizens of Jackson are being blamed for who they are, pointing to the city’s majority black population. Blackmon told the chamber that this bill has nothing to do with stopping crime.
“This police force will not be accountable to anybody,” Blackmon said. “There will be no joy in the black community when this becomes law.”
Rep. Yates said the city has a crime problem, a murder problem, and a lack of police problem. This bill, she explained, would provide additional police in Jackson for those who are asking for the help by expanding the CCID boundaries.
The amended Senate Bill 2343 passed the Mississippi House by a vote of 67-45. The roll call tally is below.