Covering up in Moss Point
July 30, 2003
Moss Point Police Chief Michael Ricks did his community a tremendous disservice by refusing to release information on crimes to local newspapers. Fortunately, he later changed his mind. Sort of.
From now on, I'm not releasing any information,'' Ricks said last week. It's going to be hell on reporters in Jackson County. The only way you will know something has happened is by watching Channel 5 and 10 news." Both stations generally cover Mobile, Ala., news and it was unknown whether Ricks feels he has better control over what the TV stations report.
The chief's action evidently followed a series of crimes that went unreported to the media by police. The police department failed to acknowledge a July 5 shooting in which two police officers were involved in a chase and fired weapons to try to stop a fleeing car. A Moss Point police review board last week found officers Tommy Nabb and Anthony Cooley unjustified in the shooting by going against department policy for trying to stop a fleeing car.
Nabb, who was determined to have fired three shots, was recommended seven days suspension without pay and Cooley, who was determined to have fired one shot, was recommended three days suspension without pay.
The most recent shooting that was unreported by police occurred July 19. A Moss Point woman was shot at a nightclub. Ricks had told The Sun-Herald newspaper no one had been shot, but after witnesses told the paper otherwise, a press release acknowledging the shooting was prepared; no local media outlet received it.
So, it seems, Ricks was either way out of touch with his own department or he lied to the public that pays his salary.
Accurate crime news reporting is a tough assignment under the best of circumstances, as all conscientious journalists know. But having a law enforcement officer who willingly lies to cover up crimes in his community is, at the very least, poor judgment on his part.
Courts have ruled repeatedly that police incident reports are public information; that is, information people have a right to know. Ricks has no right to withhold it. Someone needs to get that message to Police Chief Michael Ricks in Moss Point, or perhaps he needs to find another line of work in which lying and deception are acceptable practices.