Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey has responded to the guilty pleas of six former law enforcement officers – five of which served in his department – who beat, tortured, and sexually assaulted two Black men earlier this year.
Amid calls for his resignation, Bailey held a press conference Thursday afternoon at the Rankin County Sheriff’s Office in Brandon. The sheriff told reporters that he was blindsided by evidence discovered through investigation into the group of white officers’ racist assault on Michael Corey Jenkins and Eddie Terrell Parker on the night of Jan. 24.
“Based on the facts in their guilty pleas, all former deputies lied to me the night of the incident. We have cooperated fully with all outside investigative agencies to uncover the truth and bring justice to the victims,” Bailey said. “We have also sought assistance from outside agencies and consultants to help us with repairing trust within our community.”
Bailey, who is currently seeking a fourth term and running unopposed in this year’s election cycle, said he has no plans to step down from his position at this time.
“The only thing I’m guilty of on this incident right here is trusting grown men who swore an oath to do their job correctly. I’m guilty of that, but the people of Rankin County elected me to do a good job during good times and bad times,” Bailey said. “I’m going to stay here. I’m not going to resign. I’m going to fix these problems and try to leave this [department] in better shape than I found it.”
In an attempt to reinstall trust in the Rankin County Sheriff’s Office, Bailey said he has implemented multiple new policies since the Jan. 24 incident, one of which is updating the department’s body camera policy.
All deputies are now required to have their cameras on at all times while on duty unless a victim of a crime requests to speak to law enforcement anonymously. A compliance officer has been hired to randomly check body camera footage. Bailey has also ordered for additional audits of officer-issued tasers.
“Rankin County is one of the safest places to live in the United States. We have one of the lowest crime rates here,” Bailey said. “I want to provide that to the citizens, but I don’t want anybody to be scared of a deputy.”
The Rankin County Sheriff’s Office will now turn to a private firm Bailey says is staffed with former FBI agents. The firm will conduct an independent audit of policies, procedures, and operations before providing a list of actions the department can take to prevent future incidents of abuse.
At this time, former officers Leonard Hunter Elward, 31, Christian Dedmon, 28, Jeffrey Middleton, 45, Daniel Updyke, 27, Brett McAlpin, 52, and Joshua Hartfield, 31 have all pled guilty and are awaiting sentencing hearings from Nov. 14-16.
U.S. Assistant Attorney General Darren LaMarca said Thursday that sentences will “vary but some will have a maximum of life.”