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Vicksburg Mayor postpones police town hall after particularly bad weekend for crime



Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs Jr. also serves as the city's police commissioner.

It’s a really bad week to hold a crime town hall in Vicksburg.

This past weekend saw an unprecedented spate of violent crimes. A home invasion kicked off the weekend Friday evening around 8:30 p.m., when two teenagers allegedly stole a woman’s purse at gunpoint. Early Saturday morning, Dematric Clark lost his life when he was shot once in the head. Then, Sunday around 2:30 a.m., two 18-year-olds, Shemar Anderson and Jatavius Devoils, were seriously wounded in an apparent shootout.

Frankly, if I had the option, I wouldn’t hold a community meeting about crime now, either. Vicksburg residents are mad and scared, and they’re unlikely to provide a welcoming atmosphere.

With that in mind, it was not altogether surprising, but still disappointing, to receive a notification today that Mayor George Flaggs Jr., who is also the city’s police commissioner, has indefinitely postponed the crime town hall scheduled for tomorrow. Flaggs announced the meeting Sept. 11, about two weeks ago. In a release today, Flaggs said that one of the five panelists was ill, and another had a training conflict.

“I plan to announce an alternate date and time for this question and answer session as soon as all five officers can be present to answer questions from the public regarding public safety in Vicksburg,” Flaggs said in his release.

“It is my intention to question and give comments to our police department so they can better combat crime and reach our goal of zero tolerance of crime in Vicksburg,” he added.

Long-time residents concerned about policing in Vicksburg know that this isn’t the first such meeting Flaggs has held.

Vicksburg residents deserve to speak to and question the public servants in charge of policing our streets after the weekend we experienced. In fact, they deserve to speak to and question their public servants any time.

Make no mistake: All of us at the Vicksburg Daily News are big fans of the police officers whose job it is to protect the city and its residents every day. Officers never know what they will encounter when they put on the uniform or go to investigate crimes committed on our streets and in our homes. Many of them are legitimate heroes and put their lives on the line daily.

We see it as a vital part of our job to communicate with police and inform you, our readers, so that you know what’s going on in the community and can respond effectively when crimes occur.

Another part of our job is to report whether police are being effective. Along those lines, it’s important to know whether crime is being prevented, solved and reported accurately.

We will be on hand at the rescheduled meeting, not to ask questions, but to report on the questions you ask, and the answers police provide.

Regardless, we have a lot of questions right now. Some are a bit technical, especially when it comes to crime statistics and reporting. We’re attempting to get our questions answered, but it’s a slow, tedious and expensive process—needlessly so in our opinion.

Here are the questions we would ask if we had a few hours to ask them:

In General

Do you feel that the community is satisfied with your performance? Do residents feel safe and do they trust the police?

What do you consider the optimal number of police for VPD, and on what are you basing that number? In other words, what methodology are you using to determine the optimal number? (One standard, and there are many, is a 450:1 resident to officer ratio. Nationally, the average is about 17 officers for every 10,000 residents.)

What is the total number of people currently employed by VPD? How many in that number are officers on the street versus administrative and civilian positions such as clerks and dispatchers? (The national average is about 75 percent officers out of all department employees.)

Do you have a strategic plan for improving police metrics and morale, and is the plan tied to outcome goals?

Does VPD have any community outreach programs, especially programs targeted toward young people? Can you provide details?

Does VPD utilize community policing best practices? If not, what best practices are you implementing?

Is there another police force that you use to benchmark your policies, service and performance?

VPD was accredited by the state of Mississippi (Mississippi Law Enforcement Accreditation Commission, aka MSLEAC) under former Chief Walter Armstrong, Assistant Chief John Dolan and Assistant Chief Mitchell Dent in 2011, and reportedly has maintained that accreditation. Is VPD working toward national accreditation (Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, aka CALEA)?

Have you been awarded, or have you applied for, federal COPS grants during the current administration? If you have, how were those funds used?

There has been a lot of news lately concerning school shootings. What is VPD doing to prepare schools and students for active shooter situations?

Is there evidence of racial animus among officers, from leadership or in public contact? Have Vicksburg’s officers undergone any racial sensitivity training? Do you keep records of racial incidents within the department and will you make those incidents, if any, public?

Crime Statistics

In January 2017, Mayor Flaggs appointed a four-member commission to examine the way crime statistics are reported. What were the findings of the commission, and how have those findings changed crime reporting for VPD?

Does Vicksburg report crimes and crime clearance statistics to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program? Do you compile those statistics, and will you release those compiled statistics to the public on a regular basis?

In the crime statistics recently released to the public, you have reported incidents and arrests but not clearance rates. As you know, arrests may not have a direct connection to incidents because more than one arrest can be made for a crime, and more than one incident can lead to only one arrest. In addition, an arrest can be made years after an incident occurs. For these reasons and others, the FBI UCR statistics include clearances of crimes by arrests or other methods, not arrests. One crime, one crime cleared—or not. Based on information the Vicksburg Daily News has obtained via a Freedom of Information request, you report clearance statistics to the FBI monthly. Will you report clearance rates to the public in addition to crimes reported?

The FBI changed its reporting criteria for rape in 2013, more than six years ago. VPD is still using the legacy definition meaning the FBI does not use your rape statistics in its UCR reporting. Why haven’t you updated your definition, do you plan to do so, and if you do, when?

In the crime statistics recently released to the public, you categorized about 12 to 14 percent of all crimes and 23 to 24 percent of arrests as “domestic.” To our knowledge, there is no crime called “domestic.” Domestic violence usually occurs and results in arrests in numerous violent crime categories, including .aggravated assault, rape, kidnapping, murder and so forth. What kinds of crimes do you include under “domestic,” and why have you made that a standalone crime category? Can you break out the “domestic” numbers into actual crimes committed and charged and report those statistics to the public?

The crime statistics recently released do not include arson, a standard FBI UCR category. What are the reported and cleared rates for arson in Vicksburg?

According to your arrest statistics, about 11 percent of property crimes (theft, robbery, vehicle theft) in Vicksburg result in an arrest. Nationally, about 18 percent of these crimes are cleared. What steps is VPD taking to increase its rate of solving property crimes?

Without knowing clearance rates, it’s impossible to accurately calculate what your effectiveness is for violent crimes or property crimes. Will you release crime and clearance statistics to the public by the standards the FBI had set?


Why haven’t police shut down the Waffle House restaurant after Sunday’s shootout?


The town hall meeting was scheduled for one hour. We believe Vicksburg residents deserve more time with their police leaders. We also believe it is not necessary to have all five top cops on the panel. One or two, perhaps three would be more than enough. Perhaps Police Commissioner Flaggs could fill one of those slots.

We urge Vicksburg residents concerned about crime in the city to contact the Mayor’s office to reschedule the town hall as soon as possible, and then to make the time to attend in person. It’s that important.

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