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The U.S. Department of Justice has announced the launch of a civil pattern orpractice investigation into the City of Lexington, Mississippi, and the Lexington Police Department

The U.S. Department of Justice has announced the launch of a civil pattern orpractice investigation into the City of Lexington, Mississippi, and the Lexington Police Department

November 9, 2023 – The U.S. Department of Justice has announced the launch of a civil pattern or

practice investigation into the City of Lexington, Mississippi, and the Lexington Police Department

(LPD). This investigation is meant to determine whether the Lexington Police Department has

engaged in a pattern or practice of discriminatory policing, excessive force, violating constitutional

rights during stops, searches, and seizures, or First Amendment violations.

Since May 2022, JULIAN, civil and human rights advocacy organization, has been advocating for the

Department of Justice to intervene and take action in response to systemic, condoned racism by

both the police department and in Lexington’s municipal government as a whole. JULIAN has been

documenting a consistent pattern of police violence and misconduct against Black residents. As a

result, JULIAN and the National Police Accountability Project (NPAP) filed a federal lawsuit against

multiple officials in Lexington including the City of Lexington, the Lexington Police Department, the

former chief of police, and the interim police chief, to demand protection for the city’s largely Black

population who have been terrorized, harassed and intimidated by police.

“We thank the Department of Justice for stepping in and investigating illegal abuses of power against

Lexington residents who live in fear of a police department whose responsibility is to protect them,”

said Jill Collen Jefferson, president and founder of JULIAN. “This is a first and necessary step toward

bringing urgent reform and accountability to a local criminal justice system that has completely

failed its Black residents.”

JULIAN has been taking action to prevent Lexington police from “threatening, coercing, harassing,

assaulting or interfering” with Lexington citizens’ constitutional right to travel freely, their right to

free speech under the First Amendment, their right to equal protection under the Fourteenth

Amendment, and their right be free of false arrests and excessive force under the Fourth

Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Sherri Reeves said that the Lexington police detained her son without cause and tried to charge him

with a felony for finding him with a prescription bottle of acetaminophen (the active drug in Tylenol);

window tint on his car. “The police assaulted and manhandled the tow truck driver because he told

me that the police could release the car to me. He had scars and bruises. My son was scared out of

his wits,” Reeves said. “This is just something the police do every day. With everything going on in the

world, this was terrifying.”

The Special Litigation Section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S Attorney’s

Office for the Southern District of Mississippi will jointly conduct this investigation pursuant to the

Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which prohibits state and local

governments from engaging in a pattern or practice of conduct by law enforcement officers that

deprives people of rights protected by the Constitution or federal law. If the Justice Department has

reasonable cause to believe that the law enforcement officers of a state or local government have

engaged in a prohibited pattern or practice, the department is authorized to bring a lawsuit seeking

court-ordered changes to remedy the violations.

The investigation is timely, as the police department has sought to intimidate Lexington residents

and advocates who have been speaking out and reporting this routine injustice. Nearly a year after

Jill Collen Jefferson initially sued the Lexington Police Department for a history of misconduct and

civil rights abuses, and shortly after she represented plaintiffs who submitted several affidavits

detailing even more police abuses, Jefferson was falsely and unjustly arrested in retaliation for her

efforts to hold the department accountable. JULIAN has been managing this crisis around the clock

for the past 17 months.

“There has been mounting evidence that the Lexington police department’s brutality is allowed to

run rampant. Since this is a small town, residents know they can be targeted if they file a complaint,”

said Jefferson. “We are eager to work with the Department of Justice to put an end to years of racist

intimidation that community members have unjustly had to endure. There is considerable work to

do, and Lexington residents will not stop until they get the justice they deserve.”



JULIAN, a national organization with a special focus on Mississippi, provides legal, organizing, policy,

crisis management, and movement-building services to victims and survivors of discrimination. The

organization, named after Julian Bond, highlights racist attacks on people of color that don’t make

the headlines, such as the brutality of Lexington’s police department towards its Black residents.

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