Military and Police

How Many Times Can an Elected Official Get Away with Inciting Violence Against Police?

“What I suggest is we get the black leadership together, and as these jurisdictions come into Jackson we throw rocks and bricks and bottles at them.” 

Even to the dismay of his own city council members, Jackson, Mississippi city councilman Kenneth I. Stokes was publicly rebuked for his incendiary comments inciting violence against law enforcement officers. Regarding neighboring jurisdictions’ police officers pursuing suspects through the city in which he holds elected office, Stokes encouraged Jackson citizens to pelt cops with “rocks and bricks and bottles” if they are seen traversing through Jackson city limits.

Previously covered by Tucker Carlson with Fox News, Councilman Stokes went on record on live TV and boldly stated his will to inflict physical harm upon surrounding cities’ police officers. Given the public broadcast, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant got involved and speculated if Stokes’ comments “represent criminal threats against law enforcement officers.” Well of course they do! Of course he is inciting violence against public servants.

Mr. Stokes’ exact words were, “What I suggest is we get the black leadership together, and as these jurisdictions come into Jackson we throw rocks and bricks and bottles at them.” Why “black leadership” only? Is there some implication to be learned here? In January 2016, Mr. Stokes held a press conference for the Clarion-Ledger in which he expounds his anti-police points, claiming cops are “targeting” black kids and that outside police agencies pursuing through Jackson is “unlawful.” In the video, Stokes harps on race—a lot.

Ultimately, anyone getting together in any way to harm police officers is not leadership material but, instead, jail candidates incriminating themselves pertaining to malicious intent. Whether violent actions actually follow amounts to additional charges.

So embarrassed and confronted with major fallout born of their city’s elected official, the entire Jackson City Council was unanimous when it went on record via their president, Melvin Priester, Jr., who scribed the following press release:

As President of the City Council I can say unequivocally that Councilman Stokes’ comments are indefensible and do not represent the Jackson City Council or the City of Jackson. Following Councilman Stokes’ comments, I have spoken personally with the other members of the council and we are in agreement that the Jackson City Council does not support any calls for acts of violence against those who serve as members of law enforcement.

Moving forward, it is imperative that we renew our efforts to work with surrounding communities to find common ground regarding regional pursuits and the safety concerns posed by high speed chases in the metro area. I hope that Councilman Stokes’ unfortunate and unacceptable words do not prevent us from achieving an effective regional pursuit policy throughout the metro area.

The safety of the citizens of Jackson and the safety of those who work tirelessly to serve and protect is of utmost importance. While concern may be voiced over high-speed pursuits within city limits and the legitimate danger they pose to innocent by-standers, such concerns do not justify calling for violence against law enforcement.

That was in January 2016. Here we are, July 2017, and once again Mr. Stokes somehow found his foot in his mouth and seems to enjoy the taste of soiled sole.

On July 19, 2017, Pearl police Officer Alfred Jenkins, who resides in south Jackson, was home with his wife when unknown assailant(s) shot up his home to the tune of roughly 30 bullets. Albeit speculatively, folks recalled Stokes’ earlier threats against any outside cops who pursue suspects through his city. It turns out the Pearl police officers chased a car through Jackson just prior to the shooting spree at the Pearl cop’s house. The Pearl police chief, Lee Vance, reported Officer Jenkins was not involved in that particular pursuit.

Regardless, Rankin County Undersheriff Raymond Duke blamed Stokes’ admonitions in 2016, inciting citizens to inflict harm to outside police forces going through his city. Undersheriff Duke’s opinion went public via the Rankin County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page, saying, “If the thugs weren’t encouraged to throw rocks, bottles and bricks, maybe they would not have felt so comfortable in attempting to assassinate an officer simply because of the job he does.”

According to Rankin County investigators, residents believe the Pearl officer’s home getting shot up stems from Stokes influencing others to harm police for police chases through Jackson neighborhoods, alleging cops’ wanton disregard for black children, according to MSNews.com.

Councilman Stokes replied to Duke’s assessment by holding a press conference of his own on July 21, 2017, saying, “The first thing I’d like to say is, Duke is a hog-headed lying bastard!” (According to new station WLBT, Stokes said the aforementioned insult six times during the reporter’s on-camera interview; apparently, Stokes still feels throwing objects at police is a good idea.)

He continued like a child when he publicly said, “Show me a picture of him and tell me he don’t have a hog head. He just lied saying that the people of Jackson like we all shooting up a house and he sure a bastard.” Makes one wonder what the folks who elected and/or reelected Mr. Stokes to political office think of their choice.

According to the Councilman Kenneth I. Stokes government page, he acquired his Juris Doctor degree at Thurgood Marshall School of Law (Houston, Texas campus). Do his sentiments, name-calling, insults, and threats of violence against law enforcement sound like an attorney whose ethics and oath are exemplary?

Again: How many times can an elected official get away with inciting violence against police?

Stephen Owsinski

Stephen Owsinski is a Senior OpsLens Contributor and retired law enforcement officer whose career included assignments in the Uniformed Patrol Division and Field Training Officer (FTO) unit. He is currently a researcher and writer. Follow Stephen on Twitter @uniformblue.

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