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INTRODUCTION

[A]Il executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation to support this Constitution. . . . {U.S. Constitution, article VI, S 3] I, . . . do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Mississippi, and obey the laws thereof; ... [Miss. Constitution, article 14, S 268_Oath of Office Required of Public Officials in Mississippi.] For those in authority . . . to defy the law of the land is profoundly subversive not only of our constitutional system but of the presuppositions of a democratic society. [Mr. Justice Frankfurter, concurring in Cooper v. Aaron, 358 U.S. 1, 22 (1958)]. This report is a study of the failure of local officials in several Southern States to adhere to their oath of office to support the Federal Constitution. The Commission, since its inception, has continually received and investigated complaints from many States, particularly in the South, that local law enforcement officials were depriving American citizens of their constitutional rights. In an interim report issued in 1963, the Commission found that there had been "open and flagrant violation of constitutional guarantees in Mississippi.”

In 1964 the Commission staff began investigations in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida, which focused on the failure of local officials to prevent or punish acts of racial violence and on interference by these officials with the assertion of constitutional and statutory rights by Negroes, including the right of public protest. The cities studied in the initial investigation-Greenwood and Jackson, Mississippi; Gadsden, Alabama; St. Augustine, Florida; and Americus, Georgia-were chosen because the Commission had received complaints that in each of these communi

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ties attempts by Negroes to assert rights consistently met with violence and suppression. The allegations indicated that instru. mentalities of local government were being used to preserve the traditional subservient position of the Negro.

These and earlier investigations indicated that, although problems of racial violence and discrimination in law enforcement existed in a number of States, the problems were most serious and widespread in Mississippi. Accordingly, the Commission decided to hold an open hearing in Mississippi to assess objectively and in context the status of law enforcement in that State. The Commission recognized that an in-depth study of one State would not necessarily imply that similar practices existed in communities throughout the South. Comparable complaints, however, from a number of communities elsewhere in the South suggested that verification of some complaints would confirm the existence of a wider problem.

In preparing for the hearing, the Commission staff visited numerous counties where widespread racial violence had occurred or where particular problems of law enforcement were reported to exist. The counties finally chosen for presentation at the hearing were located in different parts of the State: Adams and Pike Counties in the southwest; Jones County in east central; Madison County, north of Jackson; and Leflore and Washington Counties in the Delta. The Commission staff visited these counties and interviewed victims of racial violence and local officials responsible for law enforcement.

The Commission's hearings were held in Jackson in February 1965. In accordance with the statute regulating such hearings, the Commission first met in executive session on February 10-11 at the Federal courthouse. At this time it afforded an opportunity for persons whom it determined might be defamed, degraded, or incriminated in public testimony to be heard privately. No tices were sent to 32 persons, 10 of whom appeared. Portions of this testimony, determined by the Commission not to degrade, defame, or incriminate, have been used in this report.

The public sessions of the hearing were held in the auditorium of the Veterans Administration Center in Jackson beginning on February 16 and continuing through February 20, 1965. The first portion of the hearing dealt with denials of the right to vote to Negroes, and the Commission has issued a report of its findings on this subject entitled Voting in Mississippi. The second part of the hearing was devoted to law enforcement. The more than 30 witnesses included Negro citizens, law enforcement officials, and leaders of both the white and Negro communities. At the conclusion of the hearing, the Commission heard panels of Mississippi attorneys, businessmen, and religious leaders who discussed the racial problems of their State: All of these proceedings were open to the public, were well attended and widely publicized.

This report reflects the results of the Commission's hearing in Mississippi and its staff investigations in that State and in Alabama, Florida, and Georgia. The results of these investigations are reported in Part I. In appraising the effectiveness of existing Federal remedies, the Commission staff analyzed legal authority and held conferences with a number of Federal law enforcement officials including representatives of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, the Office of the United States Marshal, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The results of this appraisal appear in Part II. Part III of the report contains findings and recommendations.

Since the Commission's investigation and hearing, prominent citizens in some southern communities have issued public statements calling for impartial and effective law enforcement. Nevertheless, serious racial crimes continue in certain areas and some local officials fail to prevent or punish them. The persistence of unpunished racial crimes emphasizes the need for additional Federal action to secure to all Americans the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Constitution.

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