A Federal Lawsuit Challenges Blatantly Unconstitutional Anti-Crime Checkpoints in Jackson, Mississippi

Archie Skiffer Jr. resides in Mendenhall in Mississippi and delivers food to DoorDash in Jackson on weekdays. This side hustle has been made more complicated by anti-crime screenings used by Jackson Police Department (JPD). These are used to arrest “individuals without outstanding warrants” or other lawbreakers. Skiffer’s encounter with JPD’s “Ticket, Arrest, Tow” (TAT program), which he, along with other plaintiffs, are challenging yesterday in a federal court case, illustrates how these blatantly unconstitutional roadblocks can impact drivers who stop without having any evidence of traffic violations.

According to the Mississippi Center for Justice’s complaint (MCJ), “Mr. Skiffer, as a food delivery driver does not believe he is able afford to frequently encounter JPD’s TAT roadblocks.” After learning about this practice in the news, Skiffer prepared to take alternate routes to get around them. TAT has enabled him to use an app that monitors roadblock placement. He’s been driving in predominantly-Black areas and in low-income neighborhoods of Jackson since TAT began and has altered his route intentionally to avoid being stopped at multiple JPD checkpoints. He was able to see the checkpoints being built. He has delivered food to residents of these areas who told him that they will be driving to obtain food for themselves, but don’t wish to stop at the roadblocks.

Skiffer, along with other drivers have had to endure the same indignity as Jackson’s suspicious stops and go to great lengths to avoid them. The MCJ seeks an injunction. The police will demand proof of insurance and driver licenses from drivers during the stop. Drivers who don’t have these documents are ticketed and their cars towed. When police find that someone is illegally carrying firearms or has outstanding warrants they arrest them. The MCJ is asking the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Mississippi for certification of the lawsuit as a class-action suit. It argues that checkpoints are against the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable searches or seizures.

In the case of 2000, the Supreme Court stated that stopping motorists cannot be justified by the possibility of inspection and interrogation revealing that they have committed some crime. Indianapolis vs. Edmond. One driver, who refused to present his licence and proof of coverage at the JPD checkpoint last Wednesday, stated that “You cannot treat everybody as a criminal to locate the criminals.” Jackson city officials made clear this is what Jackson is doing.

According to the complaint, a JPD spokesperson stated that “we come across some violent criminals who were wanted” on February 16. This is why we have these checkpoints. Jackson’s crime problem is the purpose of these checkpoints, he explained.

James Davis, the Chief Police Officer of the Department of Public Safety confirmed that TAT was designed to capture criminals. That is exactly the reason the Supreme Court declared a Constitutionally inadmisible motive for suspicionless arrests. He stated that they were doing all we could to protect Jackson. “We have people with outstanding warrants. [are]We are looking for them, and they’re wanted.

This reasoning is clearly inconsistent with Supreme Court rulings in EdmondAccording to the Fourth Amendment, suspicionless stop for “primary purposes” in the “general interest of crime control” is not allowed. Davis responded to critics of roadblocks by residents of Mississippi and the ACLU of Mississippi. He said again that his department ignores that holding. He said, “They misunderstood it. They think we are targeting some group of people.” Our intent is to remove wanted people from the streets.

Chokwe Antar Lumumba (a self-described progressive) is not at all bothered about the Fourth Amendment violations by the police department. On February 14, he stated, “These roadblocks have been important when there’ve been communities that were plagued par car jackings or plagued in various forms violence.” The police can use these tools to alleviate some of the concerns.

Both Davis and Lumumba, along with most Jackson residents and police officers are black. The MCJ lawsuit argues that the TAT program has led to “disproportionately placing vehicular roadblocks or checkpoints in major-Black and low income neighborhoods.” This isn’t all the way that checkpointsdisproportionately impact African Americans.

Interracial couples are named as plaintiffs in this lawsuit: Lauren Rhoades (a white 32-year old woman) and LaQuenza Morison (a mixed-race African American 33-year-old man). They had very different experiences at the JPD checkpoints which they used frequently even before the launch of TAT.

Rhoades says she is “often waved through” security checkpoints without having to speak with officers or present any documentation. She “usually raises her ID and an officer examines it. The officer then waves her through the checkpoint without asking for proof of insurance.”

Morgan said that he cannot recall any officers waving Morgan through the doors without first checking his license. He was then asked “if it’s because he is Black” and he responded: “Oh yeah, yeah. 100 percent.”

Anita Gibbs is a black woman of 58 who “has passed through multiple JPD checkpoints over the years in all areas that are majority-Black and low income in Jackson,” says the complaint. On her way to collect her daughter from school, Gibbs “went through one JPD stop on Ellis Avenue, displaying her current license and her insurance card.” Gibbs was on her way to pick up her daughter when she encountered another JPD block blocking Ellis Avenue. It “was put in between Gibbs and her house.” She “took a longer route to get home” because the thought of being inconvenienced and disregarded by passing through another JPD blockblock with her daughter was “too much”. Gibbs explained that she felt the same way as a young girl walking through downtown Jackson while she was denied entry to certain stores, or being treated differently.

Davis  bragged last week that “we done made over 100 felony arrests since we started in January.” Jackson police could have treated black and white motorists the same. However, the Fourth Amendment would not be violated by their suspectless stops or “papers, please!” demands, regardless how many felons that they had managed to arrest.

According to the lawsuit, “just as police cannot go in every home and search for evidence for crime or slow down every citizen who walks down the street to ask them questions about drugs or illegal weapons, nor can they do the same thing with all motorists on public roads.” Although they may make more arrests for criminal activities, it would severely restrict our privacy and security as well as our ability to conduct our daily business in public. Fourth Amendment prohibitions unreasonable searches and seizures. Supreme Court has made clear that Jackson is not able to make mass stops like those being used in Jackson.