Tag: Birmingham police

Birmingham Mayor Promises Raise for Police in Next Budget

Mayor Randall Woodfin has promised Birmingham police officers a raise in the city’s next fiscal year.

“Officers are feeling a considerable amount of pressure over not being appreciated,” Woodfin said during Tuesday’s City Council meeting, which was attended by several “concerned” off-duty police officers.

Woodfin mentioned stressors on the police department, including smaller recruitment classes and growing retirement rates, as well as the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s not just our police,” he said. “Our fire department, public works and general service employees all feel the pinch. (But) what’s unique about these men and women that you see (here) is that they were not afforded the opportunity to take off over the last two years. They were not afforded some other things other employees received because they’re on the front line of public safety. As an administration, I know this council (agrees). We as an administration agree, they deserve a raise. They’re going to get a raise.” Read more.

Birmingham Police Chief Patrick Smith Resigns, Citing Personal Matters

Birmingham Police Chief Patrick Smith resigned Friday, saying he wanted to focus on personal matters.

Birmingham Mayor Randall L. Woodfin appointed Capt. Scott Thurmond, a 23-year veteran on the force, to replace Smith on an acting basis, according to a statement issued by the mayor’s office.

In a letter to Woodfin on Friday, Smith resigned effective Feb. 25, but he asked to be put on administrative leave with pay until then to allow him to conclude some personal business and to allow for a smooth transition to new leadership. Read more.

Woodfin Won’t Resign in Controversy Over Police Shooting

Mayor Randall Woodfin said he will not resign despite Black Lives Matter Birmingham’s calls for him to do so following last month’s police killing of Desmon Montez Ray Jr.

Ray, 28, was killed by police on Easter Sunday as they responded to a domestic dispute call in north Birmingham. After a chase, officers say Ray fired a gun at police as he exited his vehicle; they returned fire, killing him.

After criticism from Ray’s family and local activists, Birmingham Police Chief Patrick D. Smith released three videos — from officers’ body cameras and a neighbor’s security camera — showing the shooting.

On Monday, Black Lives Matter Birmingham called the release of the videos “unacceptable.” 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.

De-Escalation and Implicit Bias Training for Police Pushed, but Effectiveness Can Be Limited

If practice really does make perfect, can the right kind of officer training make police shootings and excessive force less common?
Some advocacy groups and politicians believe it can. Reforming training, particularly with the addition of de-escalation or implicit bias programs, is a popular proposal in the ongoing national conversations about police use of force.

Appropriate force is especially pertinent in Alabama right now. The ACLU has reported that there were 13 officer shootings in the state as of June 30, 2020, an increase of more than 60% from the 2015-2019 average of 8.2 shootings in the same months.

The national campaign 8 Can’t Wait’s eight police reform policies includes requirements for officers to de-escalate situations when possible and to try all alternative actions before using deadly force. President Donald Trump’s “Executive Order on Safe Policing for Safe Communities” in June included “scenario-driven de-escalation techniques” among its proposed federal programs for improving policing.

The Alabama Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission, which sets the standards for police training statewide, is also planning to add a new implicit bias course to its police academy curriculum, according to Law Enforcement Academy-Tuscaloosa Director Randy Vaughn.

On paper, de-escalation, implicit bias and similar training programs reduce violent encounters between civilians and police by giving officers tools to change internal prejudices and resolve situations peacefully.

But there is little uniformity among police departments on what this training includes and how it is implemented. Groups such as the ACLU of Alabama also say that, at the end of the day, a training seminar is not likely to change mindsets enough to make a real difference in the use of force.

“Those (types of training) are not what is going to fundamentally shift the culture of policing and interacting in our communities,” ACLU of Alabama policy analyst Dillon Nettles said. Read more.

This is the third piece in a package on policing in the Birmingham area. In coming days, we’ll be presenting stories about the local debate over “defunding” the police and high incarceration rates among Blacks. Previously in the The Legacy of Race: Policing

Police Brutality Brought Early Alabama Reckoning. Nation Faces Similar Questions Now.
Dogs, Firehoses Were a Precursor to Today’s Violent Protests

Approval of New License Plate Cameras Stir Up the ‘Defund the Police’ Argument in Birmingham

The Birmingham City Council voted Tuesday to approve the installation of 10 license plate recognition cameras as part of a deal with Alabama Power. The utility will install and maintain the cameras at a monthly cost of $2,291.67 to the city.

The council passed the item unanimously but not without some public criticism. Keith O. Williams, a resident representing the community action group People’s Budget Birmingham, told councilors that his organization had written to all nine councilors Monday requesting a public hearing on the item but had received no response.

The group was concerned, Williams said, over “excessive use of funds for the police department” during a year in which the city is facing a significant revenue shortfall due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more.