ATLANTA -- Frank Melton - the pistol-toting mayor of Jackson, Miss. - was jailed yesterday for violating his probation on weapons charges.
Mississippi's capital is awaiting a hearing tomorrow, when a court is to determine whether the probation should be revoked. If it is, Melton faces up to six months in state prison. But even if he winds up behind bars for any length of time, Melton could remain mayor because the original violation was a misdemeanor.
Melton became a polarizing figure in Jackson shortly after his 2005 election because of his unusual crime-fighting tactics, hailed by some and deemed utterly ridiculous by others.
That debate was enhanced by yesterday's arrest, and some hoped the Melton era would end soon.
"We're living through one of the worst D-movies one could imagine," Donna Ladd, editor of the alternative Jackson Free Press, wrote in an editorial yesterday. "It's time to hit rewind."
Melton - a wealthy former TV executive - became well-known as the tough-talking host of a local Jackson television show, then as head of the state's drug enforcement agency.
Soon after his election, he began riding around Jackson in a SWAT team vehicle, heading up curfew crackdowns and arresting drug suspects.
Supporters thought the hands-on approach was needed in this city of 180,000, which experienced 53 murders in 2004.
But critics said that Melton, who is black, was engaging in racial profiling of black suspects, violating civil liberties and operating beyond the bounds of his role as mayor.
In November, Melton pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor weapons violations and no contest to a charge of carrying a pistol on a college campus. He was given a year's probation.
The warrant for his arrest states that he violated probation in January and February by staying out past curfew, taking part in "unauthorized police raids" and spending a night with minors.
Richard Fausset writes for the Los Angeles Times.