MS-JacksonMayor 09-07 0722

Jackson mayor’s visit to nation’s capitol prompts changes

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) Jackson Mayor Frank Melton’s visit to Washington D.C. in July, during which he was provided with a law officer’s security badge, has prompted a revision in how Capitol Police handle law enforcement visitors, according to a published report on Thursday.

Melton was “presumed to be armed” during the July 26 visit to the U.S. Capitol, according to the report obtained by The Clarion-Ledger newspaper of Jackson, Miss.

Melton was issued a security badge reserved for armed and on-duty law enforcement, though he said after the trip that he never asked for the badge and did not present any identification suggesting he was a police officer.

The badge, issued by Capitol Police, allows a law enforcement officer to go through security checkpoints without being searched. Melton, known for carrying guns, is not a law enforcement officer.

Though no Capitol official has alleged the mayor violated any law, “I’m satisfied that if (Melton) comes again, he could not game the system,” U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., told the newspaper on Wednesday.

“There is too much at stake for him to pretend to be law enforcement when he is not,” said Thompson, the ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee.

Thompson’s office asked for an investigation into the mayor’s security clearance after one of his staffers noticed Melton’s badge during a meeting. Melton was in Washington discussing a $29 million federal appropriation request to repair Jackson water and sewer systems.

The newspaper said Wilson Livingood, sergeant-at-arms for the U.S. House, had stated in the report to Thompson dated Aug. 17 that Melton showed a Jackson Police Department credential to Capitol Police.

Melton did not immediately return phone calls left by The Associated Press at City Hall.

When asked about the incident shortly after he returned from Washington, Melton said he did not go armed and was offered the badge by Capitol Police when his two bodyguards both Jackson police detectives – were given credentials.

City spokesman Tyrone Lewis also disputed Livingood’s account.

“We’ve already addressed that issue,” he said.

Lewis said Livingood “hasn’t substantiated where he got that information.”

Marcus Ward, who at the time was the lobbyist for the city and accompanied the mayor on the Washington trip, told the newspaper that he did not see Melton present any police identification and that he did not claim to be a police officer.

As far as himself, Ward said he did not receive a badge and went “through all of the security screening like any visitor.”

In the report, Livingood said Capitol Police called the Jackson Police Department and confirmed the identity and “duty status” of Melton and his bodyguards before issuing the badges. Livingood also said Melton’s bodyguards “vouched for the mayor.”

Lewis said he is not aware of anyone from Capitol Police calling to verify Melton’s credentials. Lewis said such a call likely would be directed to him.

In keeping with Capitol policy, neither Melton nor his bodyguards were asked to present their guns for inspection, “so it is not known that the mayor was unarmed,” Livingood wrote.

Livingood informed Thompson that he since has been instructed by the chief of the Capitol Police to develop new policies, including requiring police to display their guns before receiving a law enforcement pass, show their law enforcement badge and credentials at every security checkpoint, and return their temporary security badges when they leave the Capitol.

“As a matter of record, I also directed the chief of the United States Capitol Police to personally contact Mayor Melton and the two members of his security detail to notify them of the proper use of temporary (law enforcement) credentials,” Livingood wrote.

Although the mayor has said at times that he possesses authentic law enforcement credentials, no proof has ever been shown. When asked whether the city considers Melton to be a police officer, Lewis said, “He would have to address that.”

Information from: The Clarion-Ledger, http://www.clarionledger.com