Debate about police providing funeral escorts continuesBy JASON PATTERSON,
The debate about police providing escorts for funeral processions in the city continued in a second straight Mayor and Board of Aldermen meeting this week.
Ward 3 Aldermen Sir Jonathan Rucker and Ward 4 Alderwoman Elizabeth Thomas both stated that they believe the process is unfair and escorts are more likely to be provided to people with connections.
“If anybody calls for a funeral escort the police need to go there – not just for certain families, but for every family,” Rucker said. “I was told that one particular family received a funeral escort Saturday, and the police were even at the house before the funeral started. I was at another funeral on the same day at a different time, and there was no police escort.”
“I’m gravely concerned about the status of funeral processions in Yazoo City,” Thomas said. “One funeral received an escort from Jefferson Street to St. Matthew’s Church and later to the cemetery on Saturday. I know that there were three other funerals that didn’t receive the same courtesy.”
Thomas clarified that the funeral homes didn’t request escort services for those funerals, but she said it was because they had been turned down in the past.
“They had been told this service was no longer provided,” Thomas said.
Rucker said he thinks the city is not treating everyone equally.
“I know this for a fact because I was there so nobody can sugarcoat anything,” Rucker said. “You can’t hide anything from me. Forgive me for being unprofessional by saying this, but I am sick and tired of politics. I’m sick and tired of us showing favoritism. I’m sick and tired of it. I’m saying it now, and let the record reflect it, we don’t have anything on the books, so if anyone calls and asks for a funeral escort the police need to be there if nothing else is going on. If I have to I will call E911 to get a report to see if anything was going on.”
Rucker said he didn’t think there was anything going on Saturday that could have prevented escorts.
“There was no accident, and nothing happened. If three or four police cars escorted one funeral procession, why couldn’t the other funerals get it? I mean it from my heart, we have to stop showing favoritism. We’ve got to do better. There’s so much animosity in this city and so much retaliation. People want to hate people, when they’re speaking up for what’s true.”
Rucker thanked Sheriff Jake Sheriff, who was sitting in the audience, for allowing his department to provide funeral escorts at times.
Thomas said she thinks the city could face legal action if no changes are made to the process.
“We’re setting ourselves up for a lawsuit,” Thomas said. “It appears that we’re only providing funeral escorts for upper management in City Hall. Only the people in City Hall get funeral escorts. We’re setting ourselves up. Alderman Rucker has alluded to this in several of our meetings, and it’s time to put it to bed. We need to do what’s right.”
During the previous meeting the board discussed creating an ordinance that defines the process. Police Chief Ron Sampson said his department is happy to provide the service, but with limited manpower officers are often tied up on other calls and unavailable.