The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating the City of Lexington, Miss., and its police department to determine whether there is a pattern of misconduct and constitutional violations, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Kristen Clarke announced at a Nov. 8 press conference.
The news follows years of accusations of misconduct against the city’s Black residents and the surfacing of the recording of a racist rant last year that resulted in the police chief’s ousting.
“Underserved communities in the Deep South will not be left behind as we carry out our work to ensure constitutional policing across America,” she said.
Clarke said the DOJ is determining “whether the police department uses excessive force; violates people’s civil and constitutional rights during stops, searches and arrests; engages in discriminatory policing; or violates people’s civil rights to engage in speech or conduct protected by the Constitution.” She said the DOJ had uncovered allegations through public records and interviews with community members.
The assistant attorney general said the DOJ will review the police department’s body-camera footage, incident reports, interactions with the public, internal documents, training materials and policies. Investigators will also meet and watch officers during their shifts and talk with community members to hear from all sides.
Lexington has about 1,600 residents; 86% of its population is Black and 29% of residents live in poverty, U.S. Census data shows. The Lexington Police Department has fewer than 10 officers, Clarke noted. About half of police departments in the U.S. have 10 or fewer officers, a report from the U.S. Bureau of Justice shows.
“The Lexington Police Department is one of the smallest we have investigated and one that represents most law-enforcement agencies in this country,” she said.
Lexington is in Holmes County, which in 1968 sent the first Black lawmaker to the Mississippi House since Reconstruction in 1968; Rep. Robert G. Clark later went on to become the Mississippi House speaker in 1992.
Lexington Police Arrested Civil-Rights Attorney
Kristen Clarke and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi Darren J. LaMarca visited Lexington on June 1 to “address civil-rights issues, including
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