Tag: Birmingham police
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.
In a Wednesday morning press conference, Mayor Randall Woodfin sketched out plans for how the Birmingham Police Department will proceed “in a post-George Floyd world.”
Those plans, he said, involve a 30-day internal review and the formation of a community safety task force that will perform a “90-day deeper dive into all our BPD rules and procedures.” Any “gaps between what we do now and best practices,” he said, would be addressed via executive order.
“Everything is on the table,” he said. Read more.
Approximately 50 protestors gathered outside Birmingham City Hall during Tuesday morning’s City Council meeting, but most weren’t allowed inside due to concerns over social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Instead, their voices, sometimes amplified through bullhorns, could be faintly heard throughout the meeting from outside, even as Mayor Randall Woodfin promised to “soon share a closer look at the processes and procedures at the Birmingham Police Department, including training and disciplinary actions for officers, adjustments within Internal Affairs and more.”
The voices outside were calling for a much larger step to be taken: for the City Council to “defund the police.” Read more.
Birmingham has extended its face covering ordinance through July 3. The ordinance requires all Birmingham residents to wear face coverings in public places to slow the spread of COVID-19. Read more.
The Birmingham Police Department will soon have two new high-tech crime-fighting tools at its disposal. On Tuesday, the Birmingham City Council approved nearly $75,000 for two law enforcement software systems, PredPol and Assisted Patrol Bait Systems, which are designed to increase patrol efficiency and crack down on repeat offenders, respectively. Read more.
With the help of a federal grant program, the Jefferson County District Attorney’s office has begun to chip away at the county’s massive backlog of untested sexual assault kits.
About 175 of the county’s more than 3,800 untested kits have been tested as of this month, with officials prioritizing cases that may lead to the capture of serial offenders. They also are taking steps to make sure that such a backlog never happens again, even once the federal grant runs out.
In 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance awarded the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office with a $1.5 million Sexual Assault Kit Initiative grant. The grant would pay for an inventory to be taken of the county’s backlog, as well as to establish a database of the kits and to “develop a common language and protocol for addressing sexual assault countywide,” said Danny Carr, who was then serving as the county’s district attorney pro tem.
The inventory was finished in September 2017 and found that, out of a total of 4,999 kits in Jefferson County, 3,876 had not been submitted for testing — close to 78 percent. Now, law enforcement officials face the challenge of whittling down that backlog without neglecting new cases — and of changing the mindset that led to the backlog in the first place. Read more.
Thousands Say Their Final Goodbyes to a Hero (ABC 33/40)
In a presentation to neighborhood officers, Birmingham Police Chief Patrick D. Smith laid out a new strategy for the department and urged residents to be proactive in addressing crime in their communities.
“We have to get real about it,” he said. “We cannot do things the way we always did.”
Thursday’s meeting, which took place after a swearing-in ceremony for newly elected neighborhood officers, was one of the first major presentations of Smith’s strategy since he took the job in June. Smith described his first six months on the job as playing “catch-up” with a department that had fallen “behind the curve” in its approach to fighting crime.
“When I took over, I did an analysis of the department,” he said. “Over time, from 2014 to 2018, crime has doubled … We have to do a lot to bring this police department back to where it needs to be.” Read more.
▪ Alabama has the highest rate of concealed gun permits in the country.
▪ Jefferson County has the lowest permit fee in the state.
▪ One in five adults has a permit to carry a gun.
Birmingham rang in the new year with a chorus of gunfire.
Birmingham Police Chief Patrick D. Smith told the City Council Wednesday that his department’s ShotSpotter technology had detected 960 gunshots — most attributed to celebratory firing into the air — throughout the city on New Year’s Eve, an increase from the 469 shots recorded Dec. 31, 2017.
That uptick is partially due to an expansion of the ShotSpotter program, which was increased by roughly 30 percent in 2018. “The numbers are going to higher because we’re detecting more,” Smith said.
But the increase also is indicative of the city’s gun culture, in which a large proportion of adults wield handguns, many with little knowledge or regard for gun safety.
“It’s stupid,” Mayor Randall Woodfin said Wednesday. “The people who committed these acts, it was very stupid of them to do, because any bullet that goes up must come down.”
Concern over the gunshots was in some ways an appropriate way for city officials to start 2019, which follows one of the city’s most violent years in recent memory. 2018, with 109 recorded homicides, narrowly avoided 2017’s 23-year high of 117 homicides. Read more.
Several months after taking the job, Birmingham Police Chief Patrick D. Smith is expected to deliver a comprehensive plan for crime reduction to the City Council next month.
The announcement of the plan was made at Tuesday’s council meeting by Cedric D. Sparks, Mayor Randall Woodfin’s chief of staff, in response to concerns expressed by the council about increasing rates of violent crime in the city.
2018 is on track to become the city’s deadliest year in decades. As of Oct. 16, Birmingham had logged 92 homicides in 2018, slightly ahead of the 87 homicides that had been reported at this point last year. By the end of 2017, Birmingham had a reported 117 homicides, the highest rate since 1995. Read more.
Earlier this month, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin announced that, after a six-month, nationwide search, he had selected a new chief for Birmingham’s police department. Patrick D. Smith, a commander with the Los Angeles Police Department, was selected to succeed A.C. Roper, who announced the day after Woodfin took office that he would be stepping down as chief.
Smith officially started as chief on June 25. He still has a “to-do list” for getting settled in to the job, including meeting with Sheriff Mike Hale and other nearby law enforcement leaders. But he’s already begun to implement some of his priorities for the job, such as hiring more officers and placing emphasis on the first 72 hours of investigations. Smith recently spoke with BirminghamWatch about what initially drew him to Birmingham and his plans for addressing some of the city’s biggest obstacles. Read more.