Louisiana Record

Monday, September 16, 2019

Two Lincoln Parish Districts claim Police Jury does not accurately represent minority populations

By Dawn Geske | Aug 9, 2016

RUSTON – A lawsuit has been filed against the Lincoln Parish Police Jury and its president alleging a lack of representation in two districts.

The lawsuit filed against the Lincoln Parish Police Jury and its President Jody Backus claims that voters are being shorted because they are not receiving accurate representation on committee assignments in Districts 1 and 10. The lawsuit was filed by a group called The Under-Represented Citizens of Lincoln in the 3rd Judicial District Court.

The group claims it is having its 14th Amendment rights violated under the Equal Protection Clause. The group alleges that while District 1 is the second-largest tax producing district in Lincoln Parish, according to census information and the Sales and Use Tax Report, it has no representation in any committee that determines how these tax monies are spent.

Through the lawsuit, the group has maintained that the lack of representation is occurring in districts that have an African-American majority population, which is stopping them from deciding how district funds should be spent to best represent the community. It claims that it has no voice in the parish as the lack of representation is evident in these steering committees that control the majority of Lincoln Parish’s spending behaviors.

“What happens is you get this situation where the original districts that were drawn back in the '70s that the Department of Justice many have approved back then, that the demographics change,” Henry D.H. Olinde, partner at Olinde & Mercer told the Louisiana Record. “They shift. This is what happens. One part of town changes and maybe one part of town becomes gentrified and another part of town goes out in another direction. We all think that demographics are sort of permanent, but experience has demonstrated there not. They change. A district that at one time might have been predominately African-American 20 years ago, later still may not be.”

The plaintiffs in the suit include Theresa Wyatt, who alleges that she organized a meeting with the parish to discuss how the committees could be altered to better represent the minorities in the district. Wyatt is a District 1 police juror. She claims that she asked the jury to develop policies and procedures accordingly, which was ultimately ignored.

“There is this idea that some areas need more resources than others,” said Olinde. “I think probably what the suit is saying is that we’re one of those areas and we’re not getting it. Of course everyone takes a position and whether the position is accurate or true is a different issue.”

Both District 1 and 10 have predominately African-American populations, which the plaintiffs claim should be accurately represented in the committees within Lincoln Parish that make decisions on the dispersion of funds in the community.

The Lincoln Parish Police Jury is made up of 12 members that are elected to office and represent the districts within the parish for four years.

The Under-Represented Citizens of Lincoln are being represented by Attorney Karl Bernard. The Lincoln Parish Police Jury is represented by Attorney George M. Snellings.

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Organizations in this Story

Lincoln Parish Police Jury Louisiana 3rd Judicial District - Lincoln Parish Louisiana Department of Justice Olinde & Mercer, LLC