Five Mississippians accused the Lexington Police Department of having a pattern of excessive force and false arrests against Black residents, as well as punishing officers who speak out against misconduct. The lawsuit is also requesting a restraining order against the department to keep officers from violating the Black population's civil and constitutional rights any further.
JULIAN, the civil rights law firm that filed the lawsuit on Tuesday (August 16), also wants the federal government to investigate the police force for "systemic, condoned racism in both the police department and in Lexington’s municipal government as a whole," per a press release.
The filing comes after Lexington Police Chief Sam Dobbins was fired for bragging about shooting a Black man over 100 times in a secretly-recorded video.
"We're bringing this suit because we've got to protect the Black citizens of Lexington," Jill Collen Jefferson, president and founder of JULIAN, told reporters. "Their rights are being routinely violated. They're being intimidated, they're being harassed, they're being targeted, over and over and over again. And it has not stopped with the firing of that police chief."
Lexington has a population of 1,600 people, and nearly 80% of the residents are Black, according to U.S. census data. In the lawsuit, over 200 Black citizens have formally and informally complained about police violence and misconduct in the past year.
Following Dobbins' termination, Interim Chief Charles Henderson pledged to erase racist activities under the new administration.
USA Today reached out to Henderson and Lexington Mayor Robin McCrory for comment, but they haven't immediately returned the request.
The lawsuit is also seeking unspecific damages in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi.