Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Editorial: No-confidence vote worth worrying about



Social media was all atwitter last week after the Marshall Police Officers' Association passed a "vote of no confidence" in District 2 Marshall City Commissioner Michael Mitchell and called for his resignation. The group cites a number of reasons for its vote but the overarching message was that Mitchell is anti-police and actively works to undermine officers in town. This is an idea that deserves further scrutiny.
The inciting incident, Mitchell said, was assuredly comments he made at a May city commission meeting suggesting the Marshall Police Department had been "over-policing" his neighborhood to the detriment of residents' quality of life. He said police are constantly pulling people over to check license plate numbers and run background checks on them. At this time, NAACP President, Mrs. Charles Wilson, who was in attendance at the meeting, denounced his claim saying, "The fact that we've got this discussion is disgusting," she said. "I can see the police too, and I want to keep seeing them." Wilson was the driving force behind Mitchell being elected to his current position on the city commission.
Many residents leapt to defend the police department, citing a drop in crime in the area due to officers' presence. Surely areas with higher percentages of crime benefit from a visible police force. It is understandable and right that Mitchell wants to advocate for the residents in his district, but it is not always clear what motivations drive his actions.
The MPOA cited several incidents where Mitchell will watch a traffic stop to then approach the resident driving, once the stop is complete, and represent himself as the officer's superior and offer to be their "witness in court." The sentiment behind such behaviors harkens back to a 2010 incident when he was involved in an incident involving physical violence between himself and police officers in Bossier City, Louisiana that resulted in him pleading guilty to a misdemeanor and spending three months in jail, a case Mitchell cited as police brutality.
The MPOA release on its vote and residents through social media posts remarked on Mitchell's frequent sharing of anti-police rhetoric on his personal online accounts, some of which have been taken down.
City officials should comport themselves in a manner that is above reproach and that is in the best interests of the residents they serve, always. Mitchell is entitled to his opinion on MPD and police in general, but the community is always entitled to scrutinize his efficacy and value as a commissioner.

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