Under the emotional photo of former Jackson Mayor Tony Yarber and then-Jackson Police Chief Lee Vance were simple but heartbreaking words.
“My Chief 😢😞💔🙏🏿,” it read.
Yarber first appointed Vance to the top cop position in 2014, beginning a moment in Jackson history where crime went down and hope went up. Community prayers were held on the front steps of Jackson Police Department Headquarters, and the dynamic between the mayor and the police chief was one that Jacksonians trusted. The fight was one people could get behind in a lot of ways.
“He had great reduction in crime, but when it started spiking and you saw young people, day after day, hurt, killed, raped, and robbed in the streets, he was such a Christian man, it was like, what do you do? You reach out to god for help,” said Undersheriff Allen White. “We’d had all the county, state, and federal boots on the ground, but every time we’d do a prayer service, the city would calm down. We would do that every three months, and those crowds would just keep growing and growing.”
As the waves of grief have affected the people who loved Vance for his candor, his kindness, his courage and his leadership have rippled through the Metro area, the disbelief that he is gone has affected people just as much.
Vance believed in a kind of policing that included loving and understanding those who do the actual living and dying in the communities and neighborhoods. He knew those people. He lived among them. He was THEIR police chief. Their sheriff.
And he served those people he love so much until the very end. White, who sat beside him on the couch until the coroner came, said he passed away in his uniform.
Yarber took to Facebook to suggest something that would preserve Vance’s memory in a very concrete way.
“Alright, Jackson City Council…. We don’t want a street named after Chief Sheriff Lee D Vance! Y’all give anybody a street. We want a BUILDING named after him! And don’t let it take forever to do!!” Yarber posted on Wednesday.
That post was shared more than 40 times, with some expressing their thoughts that it should be the Jackson Police Department headquarters on Pascagoula Street, which is also the municipal court buliding.
Over the weekend, a written ordinance was shared to Facebook requesting just that. It’s not signed yet, but it was authored by Councilman Kenneth I. Stokes. White, a lifelong friend and colleague of Vance’s shared it Sunday, saying, “Let’s get this DONE ✅
Call your city of Jackson Council person and ask them to support this honorable initiative.”
White, who will be back at work Monday after fighting off Covid himself, said he expects a crowd at the city council meeting on Tuesday to support the renaming of the police department.