The Dixie Mafia is said to have been founded by Mike Gillich in the 1960’s in Biloxi Mississippi. The mafia had a reputation existing in most southern states like Mississippi, South Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee. Unlike traditional mafias, the members of the Dixie Mafia were not necessarily related by blood. Some assume the group was loosely connected from diverse backgrounds bound by the idea of controlling illegal money making operations. Digging a little deeper it was is easy to see that the Dixie Mafia was much more than a petty gang with no true organization.
In fact, in 1983 the FBI classified the entire Harrison County Sheriff’s Office as a criminal enterprise. Although every single officer in the department wasn’t mixed up in criminal behavior, Sheriff Leroy Hobbs was involved. Hobbs was convicted in a case involving bribery, extortion, conspiracy to commit murder and conspiracy to import and distribute cocaine. Most mainstream media sources say the Dixie Mafia is defunct. However, not everybody believes it. In 2009, Tennessee Judge Carlton Vines had his voter fraud charges dropped in exchange for stepping down as judge and promising to never seek a judicial office again. Among message boards and underground blogs, there is speculation that the mafia was involved. Conspiracy theorists have even linked Bill Clinton to the Dixie Mafia.
I had never even heard of the Dixie Mafia before now, and I was shocked when community members of Dothan, Alabama told me that they believe the Dixie Mafia is still thriving in the deep south. They believe members of the police department and other city officials are responsible for much of the corruption going on in their town. They also believe that people in high places are operating in formation as the Dixie Mafia.
Let me be clear: I wasn’t able to find a concrete link between the Dixie Mafia and these officials, but that doesn’t mean this link doesn’t exist. One thing I am sure of is the citizens of Dothan deserve to have their complaints and concerns looked into by someone with more power than the local police department.
There was a Black police captain, Ivan “Keith” Gray. He was fired for “conduct unbecoming of an officer” because of his social ties to a couple of biker clubs. The captain himself had never involved in any trouble. Gray‘s termination was upheld, but his discrimination claim was settled out of court. Once this happened, members of the community wanted to see Police Chief Steven L. Parrish removed from his post. Kevin Saffold, one of those citizens, says the chief is a founding chapter member of the Sons of the Confederate Veterans. These are men who are blood relatives of Confederate veterans.
It has been reported that Kevin Saffold has been in trouble with the law in the past, but this shouldn’t matter; his claims about Police Chief Parrish being a member of the Sons of the Confederate Veterans (SCV) are true. The SCV claims it isn’t the same as the KKK, but it doesn’t have to be to be dangerous. The Southern Poverty Law Center has deemed in their reporting that they are loosely connected to hate groups and noted in 2006 that they were moving in a more radical direction. By the standards applied to Captain Gray, shouldn’t this too be unbecoming conduct for an officer of the law?
In late 2015, a blog post went viral using redacted documents as proof of the Dothan police department’s misconduct. The blog Jon Caroll posted started out being very popular among journalists; however, several respected journalists began to discredit the evidence presented and that caused other organizations to pull their support and delete their retweets. There were a lot of “think pieces” written about the blog post, but at the end of the day, it did not yield an investigation. While the national buzz about the possibility of police corruption in Dothan died down, the citizens of Dothan continue to feel like they are under the thumb of white supremacy. Without a fair investigation, it is impossible to know the truth.
According to the Dothan Eagle, Alabama’s NAACP President Benard Simelton‘s office took 13 cases and several additional complaints to the U.S. Attorney’s office sometime in February. I reached out to him today to see if any progress had been made with these cases. “I have received 40 more cases, and the FBI has contacted me,” President Simelton stated. He also confirmed that although the cases and the complaints are diverse, there are definite concerns about racial discrimination and planting evidence by the Dothan Police Department.
The community members continue to gather to tell their stories and seek justice. They maintain this isn’t just about Chief Parrish; they have their suspicions about District Attorney Douglas A. Valeska and other appointed officials as well. These are serious allegations. I am impressed to see the community come together to protect and help one another.