Jasper Police Chief Firing Bares Rift in City Politics

JASPER, Texas — When Rodney Pearson became police chief in February 2011, it was a landmark for the town of 8,000. He was the first African-American to hold the job in a place where until recently a fence still divided blacks and whites in the cemetery.

But instead of bringing progress, his tenure as police chief — and the public feuding it provoked — threatens to wrench open still-healing wounds from the brutal killing of James Byrd Jr., which secured the town's infamous place in history.

When Pearson was appointed by a majority black City Council, a largely white group ...

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