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best police forces in the State, one of the best police forces that you will find. ...'
The confidence of the Negro community in Greenville police can be attributed to the determination of city officials to have impartial and professional law enforcement.
The chief of police, William C. Burnley, Jr., had served as a law enforcement officer in Greenville for 25 years and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy. Members of extremist groups were not permitted to join the police department, and this policy was enforced by means of FBI checks of recruits and lie detector tests. Burnley's entire immediate staff (seven officers) have attended the FBI National Academy. Other officers have received training as detectives. Unlike other police forces in Mississippi, since 1950 the Greenville police force has included Negro officers. At the time of the Commission's hearing there were seven Negro police officers and several Negro crossing guards."
In the spring of 1964, when many Mississippi communities feared violence because of the announced arrival of civil rights workers, officials in Greenville took steps to prevent trouble. The mayor and the city council issued statements which underlined the city's determination that law and order would prevail.48 Mayor Dunne told the Commission, “This we meant and the people knew that we meant it.' The city's position was supported by public statements from citizens' groups in Greenville and by the local newspaper."
The police displayed a similar attitude. Police Chief William C. Burnley, Jr., began a program of orientation and training for his officers in which he stressed their duty to enforce the law fairly and to prevent incidents of violence. The chief told his men that the policy would be, “Arrest no person regardless of who they are or what group they belong to unless they have violated the
46 T. 283. Edwards added, “We are sorry we can't say the same for the sheriff's force. ...” Ibid.
Testimony of Chief Burnley, T. 299.
48 T. 294.
Ibid. 50 T. 284, 289.
law." Those who felt they could not accept this policy were invited to leave the department. The police chief and other officials also took steps to advise themselves fully of the membership and activities of the Klan and similar organizations. 62
The community was apprised in April 1964 of police determination to prevent violence. When the Ku Klux Klan, in a show of strength, burned crosses in communities throughout Mississippi, Greenville was the only place where the persons responsible for cross-burnings were arrested and prosecuted. Later, when civil rights workers arrived in the community, there were no incidents of violence against them, nor was a single worker arrested by the Greenville police on any charge."
On August 10, 1964, a white attacked a Negro, and, in a separate incident, a Negro attacked a white. Arrests were made almost immediately in both cases and identical fines imposed." Following these incidents, Police Chief Burnley issued a statement:
The issue with us is not which race assaults the other,
and order can be obtained and continued.
61 T. 297
Ibid. 3 T. 298.
Ibid. Delta Democrat-Times (Greenville, Miss.), August 12, 1964, p. 4. 56 T. 298.
support to the governing body of the city and to the police force and to see that law and order was maintained.” 57 Mr. Percy expressed a similar view:
I think the basic reason for Greenville being the com-
of the school board and so forth. I think that is basic. 58 In other parts of the State local citizens did not publicly express their opposition to violence and their support of impartial law enforcement until extensive violence had already occurred. In McComb, violence continued for five months before local citizens issued the “Statement of Principles.” 59 In Natchez, although a statement was prepared shortly after a series of whippings in February 1964, it was not published until October. In February 1965 the Mississippi Economic Council (the State's chamber of commerce) issued a statement urging compliance with Federal law.61
In many areas of Mississippi the failure of law enforcement officials to curb racial violence is largely attributable to the racially hostile attitudes of sheriffs, police chiefs, and prosecuting attorneys.
Law enforcement officers openly displayed racial hostility in many communities. In addition, failure to make prompt arrests, , to take a firm stand against violence, and to announce an intention to punish law violators undoubtedly encouraged vigilantes to feel they could operate with impunity.
See pp. 38-41, supra. See pp. 20–21, supra. 61 T. 379. Mr. Brumfield, of McComb, testified that the Mississippi Manufacturers Association, the Mississippi Association of Supervisors, and the Mississippi Sheriffs Association issued statements similar to the one in McComb. T. 49.
Business and community leaders also failed to act, or acted only belatedly, to discourage racial violence. In several Mississippi communities where violence occurred, there were citizens who were concerned about maintaining law and order but who did not take a public position. Only in Greenville was there early and continuing support by business and community leaders for police action against racial violence.
The responsibility for Mississippi's apparent inability to deal effectively with racial violence goes beyond the law enforcement officers involved. There are certain structural weaknesses in Mississippi's law enforcement institutions that require correction. Most notable is the sheriff system, which does not produce persons who are sufficiently trained, experienced, and responsible to enforce the law in communities hostile to Negro demands for equality. The office of Sheriff is a lucrative political post, frequently held by men without background in law enforcement who reflect attitudes of the white community unrestrained by a sense of professional impartiality. In the counties studied, the limited nature of the sheriffs' investigations, the gross inadequacies in record keeping, and the practice of illegal or harassing arrests are examples of failures of the office. In violent times these failures have had tragic consequences.
The institutional framework has also influenced the conduct of prosecuting officials. The absence of any centralized State control or review of the county or district attorneys, as well as the sheriff, has resulted in what has been called a “local option on the enforcement of state law.” 62 With respect to civil rights, the local officials have opted for nonenforcement. In the Brookings Institution study previously referred to, it was found that the county government system tended to discourage "positive, vigorous and fearless administration.” It concluded that “so habitually and flagrantly has law been ignored by county officials that the situation may be viewed as contributing
in no small measure ... to general disrespect for law."
The defects of these institutions suggest changes in the structure of local law enforcement which might afford some improvement both in the caliber of the men chosen as officers and in their conduct in office. These include:
1. Changing the method of selection to insulate law enforcement officers from community prejudices.
2. Transferring to other officials those duties of the sheriff which are unrelated to law enforcement.
3. Changing the tenure of law enforcement officers (particularly sheriffs) to further insulate them from prejudices and enable them to develop professional competence.
4. Changing the system of compensation of sheriffs to encourage them to retain an adequate staff.
5. Formulating standards in recruitment and selection to weed out unqualified applicants.
6. Adopting training programs in professional techniques of law enforcement.
7. Requiring the keeping of records and reports of investigation. 8. Requiring nondiscrimination in selection of personnel.
9. Clarifying responsibilities for investigation of crimes in cases where more than one jurisdiction is involved.
10. Providing a statewide agency with general law enforcement jurisdiction.
11. Giving the State attorney general broad authority to prosecute for violation of State laws.65
64 Id. at 819.
65 Recommendations 1, 2, 3, 4, 10, and I were made by the Brookings Institution in 1932. See Brookings Institution, op. cit. supra note 9, at 935–37.