City Council Update: More Arms for JPD and an Update on Jackson Zoo

Jackson City Council. Photo by Stephen Willson

The following is an overview of the March 21 meeting of the Jackson City Council.

Tasers for JPD

The Jackson City Council passed an ordinance to supply an additional 141 JPD officers with Taser brand conducted electrical weapons. After the acquisition of this grant, 184 police officers in the Jackson area will be equipped with Tasers. Councilman Aaron Banks was skeptical regarding ordinances to properly backup procedure with the new equipment.

“One of the things we’ve learned is that we need extra escalation of force ordinances to back up the general ordinance in the case of lawsuits,”  he said.

It is important to note that there is no city ordinance relating to the escalation of force necessary to use such a weapon. While there are general orders in place, they are severely outdated and are themselves being re-written by the city’s legal team.

“We recognize the need to update our general ordinances,” Mayor Lumumba told Banks. “I think they’re from the 1970s? And the world has changed a lot.”

Sexual Assault Kit Initiative

The City of Jackson submitted a grant for $2,500,000 to the United State Department of Justice in participation with the National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative. The Jackson Police Department stated that there are over 600 unresolved sexual assault cases on backlog ranging from the past 10 years.

JPD officer Derrick Hern described one of the causes for the backup.

“We have a lot of sexual assault cases where the plaintiffs do not want to go further but these kits will give us the means and the funds to go ahead and process those,” he said. “These forensic kits will allow Jackson law enforcement to accurately acquire and process DNA samples ranging from hair samples to swabs through a software system linked to the Mississippi State Forensic Laboratory.”

Zoo Management Extension

The Jackson Zoological Park Association gained an extension in their management over the park as a result of an ordinance passed March 19. Dr. Blaine of City Planning stated that the transition is in its “final stages” and that the city was simply awaiting the audit to conclude. While in management limbo, the Jackson Zoo has been doing well as far as attendance is concerned; it reached record numbers during Spring Break that reflected 12-year highs. However, the zoo has been unable to organize fundraisers, leaving the budget in deficit.

Parks Manager Ison Harris explained to the council his intention to correct the situation.

“We are already coming up with an aggressive strategy to help them market and raise funds,” he said. Mayor Lumumba described the extension as a “necessary evil to get from the management company we have to the one that we need.” He continued by assuring the council of the quality of the current management company’s successor.

“We have found an excellent management company… if they can handle ‘Animal Kingdom’ then I think they can handle Jackson,” he said.

GPS Tracking Darts for Police Cruisers

The Jackson Police Department gained a grant to outfit 3 police cruisers with GPS dart launchers that shoot up to twenty yards and could prevent damage caused by high-speed chases. Read more on the Jackson Free Press here.