December 28, 2007

Police chief calls for investigation into private partyFor-profit Training Center event stirs procedural concerns

Kathleen Baydala
Jackson Police Chief Malcolm McMillin has started an internal-affairs investigation into a private, for-profit party thrown last week at the Training Academy by the son of a deputy police chief.
Deputy Chief Tyrone Lewis would not comment Thursday on the investigation. He has let his son, Terrell Lewis, throw dance parties for high school and college students at the academy, which is public property.
"It is what it is, and I'm moving forward," said Tyrone Lewis, who runs the academy.
"We've got a new class of recruits to get started, and I'm focusing on that."
One question that immediately came up: Would the city have been liable had anyone at a party been injured? The most recent party at the academy was last Saturday.
"This internal-affairs investigation will determine the facts of this particular case and whether or not any for-profit events can be held on city property without a contract and without an indemnification agreement between the (user) and the city about who would assume liability for any injuries that might occur," said McMillin, who is also the Hinds County sheriff.
On Wednesday, McMillin said he had no knowledge of private parties at the academy. He responded by issuing a memo to the Police Department's command staff requiring his approval for future nontraining events at the facility.
The city can allow private use of its property under state law. Any use, however, must be approved by the City Council, or the council must approve a policy outlining how city-owned properties may be used.
McMillin said he did not know of any written policy regarding use of Police Department facilities for private functions.
Most city properties open to rent or private use are community centers, which are controlled by the Department of Human and Cultural Services, and Mynelle Gardens, which is run by the Department of Parks and Recreation.
Both departments have policies for using the sites, including fees, Assistant City Attorney Carrie Johnson said.
"The policies are set by the department directors, and fees are set by the (City) Council," she said. "These are the only (policies) I'm familiar with. But that's not to say other departments do not have them."
Lewis has said he let his son use the academy rent-free because he thought it safer than private clubs. Other community groups have used the academy without charge, but Lewis could not name another user besides his son, who made money.
Terrell Lewis paid for off-duty police officers to provide security for a disc jockey to play music. He used the rest of the money to help pay for college, he said. Saturday's party was the second at the academy this year, the deputy chief said. Last year, there were four, he said.