Are hot pursuits constitutional? The city of Jackson is going to court to find out.

Council also seeking legislature to create uniform policies regarding police pursuits into other jurisdictions.
Jackson City Council file photo.
Jackson City Council file photo.
Published: Aug. 2, 2022 at 1:51 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The constitutionality of high-speed police pursuits could soon be determined in court.

Tuesday, the Jackson City Council voted 6-1 to file a lawsuit to determine whether the blanket authority allowing hot pursuits is protected under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The council also approved a resolution to ask the Mississippi State Legislature to draft and enact uniform guidelines governing the chases, which have led to numerous deaths and injuries in the capital city.

The council’s actions come days after a high-speed police chase that began outside the city limits ended in the Capital City, but only after it claimed the life of a postman working in a Jackson neighborhood.

It also comes the same day that postal worker, Brad Pennington, is laid to rest.

“We have a postman whose funeral is today. We’ve had others killed or injured,” Ward 3 Councilman Kenneth Stokes said. “We’ve got to do something and the court system is the best place to go to get an idea of what we can and can’t do to stop the madness.”

Stokes said getting hot pursuits declared unconstitutional might be the only way the city can stop chases into Jackson.

“We’ve tried communicating, talking with other agencies. Their position is they’re going to come regardless.”

It was unclear when the city would file suit, whether it would be filed by the Jackson city attorney, or what court it would be filed in.

In July, Pearl Police attempted to pull over Brandon Andrews for speeding along I-20. The suspect fled, eventually leading police into the capital city.

The chase ended when Andrews allegedly hit a mail truck in a South Jackson neighborhood, causing it to tip over. The postal worker, Brad Pennington, was fatally injured after witnesses say he hit his head on the concrete as he jumped out of the truck.

He left behind a wife and a three-year-old son. “The little boy, the postman’s son, [they] told him his father was going to be with Jesus... He woke up the next morning and said, ‘has daddy made it home yet?’” Stokes said. “If we can do something to make sure no other person is killed or hurt in this city, we need to try.”

Brad Pennington was killed when his mail truck was hit by a suspect fleeing Pearl Police.
Brad Pennington was killed when his mail truck was hit by a suspect fleeing Pearl Police.(Angela Sills)

In addition to going to court, the council also is going to the legislature.

Also on Tuesday, the council unanimously passed a resolution to ask state lawmakers to “draft and enact uniform inter-jurisdictional high-speed police pursuit safety guidelines and restrictions.”

The resolution was introduced by Ward 5 Councilman Vernon Hartley, who also is aware of how dangerous hot pursuit chases can be.

“About a year ago, one of these high-speed chases from out of town resulted in damage to a house one street over from me. If someone was in the house, they could have been hurt. Or if someone was in the yard, they could have been killed,” he said. “These things are problematic.”

The resolution is asking lawmakers to amend Mississippi Code Section 45-1-43, which gives the state, counties, and cities the ability “to adopt written policies and training procedures” governing pursuits.

The rules mean that cities across the state can have different rules regarding police pursuits. It also means that cities like Pearl do not have to abide by Jackson’s request that their officers do not pursue criminals into the Capital City.

Jackson has been at odds with neighboring cities for years regarding their pursuit policies.

Hartley said changing state statute could be the solution to the city’s problem.

“[Sstate statute] has only one paragraph and gives discretion to the municipalities to set the rules. We need some type of regulations that all municipalities can abide by,” he said. “That is what this is calling for.”

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