Jackson County

Pascagoula man to city: Did police follow own policies in traffic stop?

A Pascagoula man wants the city’s elected officials to look into whether proper procedures were followed in the controversial traffic stop of former Moss Point Police Chief Art McClung.

Mark Everson’s stern address to the City Council expressed his concerns about the manner in which police officers temporarily detained McClung on July 29. Everson recommended the council further investigate the incident to determine if McClung was given preferential treatment. The council, along with Police Chief Kenny Johnson, who was present at the meeting, did not respond to Everson’s remarks.

“The council has a clear obligation to oversee operations of city government and that implicitly includes the police department,” Everson had said earlier Tuesday. “I think it’s important that the council address this issue. Citizens need to be assured that the police department is exercising its duties in a fair and consistent manner. You don’t get a better deal because you are a colleague.”

Everson, who has a background in law enforcement, was on the city’s agenda for Tuesday night’s council meeting.

“Right now, there is a great deal of concern about the function of police across the country,” he said. “I’m a strong supporter of police, but to make sure things are functioning correctly when there are incidents like this, it needs to be looked at closely. It’s clearly significant because the Moss Point police chief lost his job over what happened.

“Coming so soon after the failure of elected officials in the same community to oversee the hospital runs the risk of undermining the respect for government on the part of the citizens,” he added. “In all my interactions with the police in Pascagoula, I’ve been struck by their professionalism and I understand and do not doubt the police chief has done a good job.

“But you’ve got a process here.”

Officers said McClung was clocked going 109 mph after drinking “at least three vodkas.”

After pulling McClung over, an officer called his supervisor, who contacted Police Chief Kenny Johnson, who said to give McClung a ride home without citing or charging him.

Since then, residents have voiced concern in phone calls and online about the lack of action in Pascagoula regarding the stop. Others have commended the officers involved.

Moss Point officials called an emergency meeting and suspended McClung without pay just hours after the Sun Herald’s exclusive report on the July 29 stop.

The city terminated McClung’s employment but gave him the option to resign within seven days. He resigned.

In earlier interviews, Pascagoula City Manager Joe Huffman, who deals with personnel issues, said he would not investigate further because the city has all the information regarding the stop. The city has taken no action against Johnson or any officers involved.

Pascagoula Mayor Joe Blevins said he supports Huffman’s decision. Blevins also has said he had no intention of reviewing the video of the stop.

Everson said he wants elected officials to dig into the incident to assure constituents they are taking it seriously.

“The council needs to evaluate whether established procedures were adhered to,” he said. “If they don’t feel confident to do that themselves, they can turn to qualified outsiders to take an independent look at it on their behalf. Most certainly, that would include reviewing the videotape of the incident.

“Was the discretion the appropriate response in this incident? Most people would tell you applying the discretion to a law enforcement officer would be a higher standard, not a looser standard.”

Everson is a former IRS commissioner under President George W. Bush and served as deputy commissioner of the U.S. Justice Department’s Immigration and Naturalization Service under President Ronald Reagan. He has testified before Congress 55 times over the years.

Freelance reporter Gordon Jackson contributed to this story.

Margaret Baker: 228-896-0538, @Margar45