Nov. 29, 2017 — Less than 24 hours after Mayor Randall Woodfin took office, Birmingham Police Chief A.C. Roper announced his retirement.
Roper has served as chief since 2007, when he was appointed by then-Mayor Larry Langford to replace outgoing Chief Annetta Nunn. Before that, Roper had served as assistant chief of the Hoover police department. He’d been with that department since 1988.
In a statement, Roper said he’d informed Woodfin of his decision on Nov. 8. He said he had decided not to reapply for his position “after a considerable amount of prayer.” Roper said he’d stay on for the next few months as the search process begins for a new chief.
Roper’s future with the department had been in question since Woodfin’s election. Throughout his campaign, Woodfin expressed concern over the increase of crime in the city. Monday saw the city’s 100th homicide of 2017 — roughly on track to tie with 2016’s homicide count of 109, the highest number since 2006’s 110.
When he spoke with BirminghamWatch on Monday, Woodfin described gun violence in Birmingham as an “epidemic” and said the city would have to combat crime “in a different way” than it had been.
“I know that there are things I’m going to have to do in unorthodox ways some people may not approve of,” he said. “But you can’t approve of innocent children dying, either.”
At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Woodfin said Roper’s resignation had been voluntary and stressed that he had a “great relationship” with the outgoing chief.
Woodfin said the process of selecting a new chief would take a minimum of 90 to 100 days. “I take the role of hiring a police chief very seriously,” he said. “Outside of my executive staff, that’s probably one of the most important hiring decisions I’ll make. That’s a decision we won’t rush. … We have to get it right. We’re looking for a world-class leader for our next police chief. … We will comb the earth to make sure we get the best.”
When asked whether there were any qualities he would be looking for in a new chief, Woodfin demurred, saying instead that he would seek community opinions first.
“Looking at the previous positions I’ve been in, as far as being a (school) board member and being part of the process where the question is, ‘What are you looking for in a superintendent?’ part of that is engaging the public, right?” he said. “Not just what I’m looking for as mayor, but what does the community, the city of Birmingham, what do our 99 neighborhoods need from the top-dog law enforcement officer? Part of that would be what I will be collecting before I can present back, ‘This is what we want in a police chief.’ I know I have my thoughts.”
Woodfin also said that there would be changes in leadership and operations for the city’s community development and economic development departments. Under Bell, those departments were headed by John Colon and Lisa D. Cooper. No official announcements have yet been made regarding those positions.