3Q'S: Harold Arrington, Tupelo/Lee County NAACP president

By NEMS Daily Journal

The Rev. Harold Arrington is the new president of the Tupelo/Lee County Chapter of the NAACP. He made one of his first public appearances at the Feb. 15 Tupelo City Council meeting to request the firings of Police Chief Tony Carleton, Maj. Jackie Clayton and Capt. Kenny Vaughn for their roles in – or response to – an incident in which Clayton removed his son from the scene of a Nov. 27 traffic accident. The Daily Journal sat down with Arrington recently.

Q – The police department already conducted an internal investigation into the Clayton incident, which was independently reviewed by the Mississippi Highway Patrol, and found no criminal wrongdoing. Case closed. Why bring it up now?

A – How can you do a thorough investigation when you don’t talk to the officers who were first on the scene? I called in December to talk to the chief and I told him then that I do not trust the Mississippi Highway Patrol because of their past actions (in allegedly discriminating against black patrol officers; the state NAACP filed a discrimination complaint against the MHP with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2009). They just rubber stamped the police department’s investigation. They didn’t do any of their own research. We’re not trying to cause trouble here. We’re just saying, hey, we expect you to do the right thing. The rules that apply to some must apply to all, regardless of their race or their position or who they know.

Q – This isn’t the first time the local NAACP has taken issue with how the Tupelo Police Department handles its internal problems. It has happened under the leadership of previous chiefs, too. What other solutions do you propose to correct this situation?
A – The Tupelo Police Department needs a citizens review board made up of local, private citizens from all races and backgrounds to hear cases and make decisions. If it has worked in other cities, it can work in Tupelo. The police department needs to embrace segments of the entire community.

Q – What other goals do you have for the Tupelo/Lee County NAACP as its new president?
A – As we lead this organization, we hope to show unity. People are looking for help, all people. And this organization isn’t about what it can do to help itself. It’s about what it can do to help the people of Tupelo and Lee County. We want to show our elected officials that it’s not enough to be in a position of power. They must serve the people who elected them. And they must serve them fairly and equally. We also are asking for people to renew their memberships or join. We welcome people of all races. To request an application, call Delores Casey at (662) 844-4166 or write to NAACP, P.O. Box 1061, Tupelo, MS 38802.