Category: Public Safety

Law Enforcement Agencies Ask for Increased State Funding; General Fund Budget Looks OK

MONTGOMERY — The outlook for the state’s current General Fund budget is good, according to state lawmakers meeting this week for budget hearings.

Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, who chairs the General Fund budget committee in the House of Representatives, said he did not expect any large COVID-19-caused cuts in the current budget as lawmakers begin to craft next year’s budget in the upcoming legislative session.

Lawmakers on Wednesday heard from law enforcement agency heads who were asking for budget increases to pay for more personnel and mitigating issues brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more.

Birmingham Won’t Defund Police, but Public Safety Plan Includes Training, Social Workers and Civilian Oversight of Complaints

The city of Birmingham said “no” to defunding the police but “yes” to social workers partnering with police, “yes” to improving police training and giving citizens a role in overseeing complaints, and “yes” to better services with which officers and members of the public can interact.

Those are some of the conclusions in the 100-plus-page report Reform and Reimagine Birmingham Public Safety, issued Thursday after a months-long look at how to improve interactions between the city police force and the rest of the community.

Mayor Randall Woodfin and City Council Public Safety Chairman Hunter Williams rolled out the report during a press conference in which they promised more transparency and accountability, enhanced efforts to connect with businesses and the public, and an ongoing commitment to change for stronger relations with constituents. Some of the reforms will go into effect almost immediately. Others may take a year or more, Woodfin said.

The report came from the city’s Public Safety Task Force, which included a former U.S. attorney, a retired detective, an anti-police brutality advocate, a lawyer and the co-founder of Black Lives Matter Birmingham.

Woodfin said the city also will need the assistance of health care providers and citizens to make the reforms work over the long term. Read more.

Woodfin Schedules Oct. 1 Hearing on Birmingham Police Reforms

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin has set an Oct. 1 hearing to discuss proposed police reforms.

The event is the culmination of a 90-day review by the public safety task force, a seven-member group appointed earlier this year to assess Birmingham Police Department policies. The task force also is requesting public input, inviting interested individuals to submit written or video proposals for new public safety policies.
Read more.

Gov. Kay Ivey Surveys Aftermath of Hurricane Sally

WBHM

Gov. Kay Ivey visited parts of Alabama’s coast Friday to survey damage from Hurricane Sally, which struck the coast on Wednesday as a Category 2 storm.

“What I’ve seen this morning in the fly over – it’s really, really bad,” Ivey said. “I think that I only saw two piers that were still standing. The rest are just sticks in the water.” Read more.

County Crew Must Move a Small Mountain to Put Out Underground Fire in Forestdale

Roads and Transportation Department workers from Jefferson County have taken on the task of moving a “small mountain” in their efforts to battle an underground fire that has annoyed Forestdale neighbors with smoke for more than a month.

Jefferson County deputy county manager Cal Markert said the steeply sloped terrain of the property off Timber Ridge Drive and Forestdale Bend Road makes battling the smoldering illegal dump site particularly tough.

“We can’t work at it from the top because it won’t hold heavy equipment, and the slope is so steep on the backside you can’t climb up on it with heavy equipment,” Markert said. “We’re basically going to start at the bottom and just very slowly excavate out with our equipment and try to get it separated that way.” Read more.

First Police Review Finds BPD is “Doing Pretty Good,” Woodfin Says, Ends With Explicit Ban on Chokeholds

Mayor Randall Woodfin announced Tuesday morning that his office’s 30-day internal review of the Birmingham Police Department had been completed. The result? “While we found that we are doing pretty good, there is still room for improvement,” he said.

The internal review focused primarily on criteria promoted by #8CANTWAIT, a national campaign calling for immediate policy changes — such as banning chokeholds and strangleholds and requiring officers to de-escalate situations wherever possible — to police departments throughout the country. The results, Woodfin said, showed that “in spirit, Birmingham is in alignment with the standards of #8CANTWAIT.” Read more.

Underground Fire Continues to Burn in Forestdale, Forces Residents Out of Their Homes

A fire burning underground in the Forestdale area for six weeks is sending noxious smoke into the neighborhood and forcing people to leave their homes.

Jefferson County is sending in employees to assess the fire, which is on property that once was a private, legal dump, and help determine a solution to put it out.

The fire at 532 Timber Ridge Drive started on May 30 and has covered the surrounding area with smoke, forcing people near the fire to seek living arrangements away from their homes. Read more.

Hundreds Gather in Birmingham to Celebrate Juneteenth

Hundreds of people gathered at Birmingham’s Kelly Ingram Park on Friday to commemorate Juneteenth, a celebration of the end of slavery.

Onoyemi Williams is with the group Alabama Rally Against Injustice. She said after weeks of protests and demonstrations, today is a celebration of Black lives.

“Because when you’re at war, you must take the time for self care and celebration,” she said. “We’re celebrating where we’re at so we can prepare for where we have to go.” Read more.

The Murals of Downtown Birmingham Transform Vandalized Streetscapes to Avenues of Hope

The cleanup and restoration of downtown Birmingham continues as more murals are painted on plywood used to secure buildings vandalized almost two weeks ago after a protest.

Saturday morning, people are being invited to the Alabama Theatre, where they can get paint and go around painting their handprints on each of the large murals lining the sidewalks, according to Mary Jean Baker LaMay, one of the organizers of BHAM Cleanup.

The Love mural above, by Véronique Vanblaere, is one of many painted this week, adding to artistry begun after the May 31 demonstration. See the photo display.