The city of Birmingham will apply for state and federal grants to purchase new license plate readers and high-definition surveillance cameras, the City Council decided Tuesday.
It also increased its contract for computer-aided dispatch maintenance services. The city plans to launch its “real-time crime center” later this month to combat the city’s rising rate of violent crime. Read more.
The Birmingham City Council has approved a $940,030 construction bid for the city’s long-planned real-time crime center, though the identity of the bidder remains confidential.
The development of a real-time crime center was first announced by Birmingham Police Chief Patrick D. Smith in 2019 as a technological hub that would give police “a very clear picture of what’s going on throughout the city.” He said information could be transmitted directly to on-beat officers “so they know exactly what they’re looking for and who they’re looking for.”
The crime center will employ policing technology such as ShotSpotter and PredPol, as well as recently approved Motorola surveillance software that drew controversy last year for its facial recognition capabilities. Mayor Randall Woodfin has maintained that the BPD cannot use those capabilities without approval from the City Council.
Birmingham ended in 2020 with 122 killings – up by 13%. Of that total, 105 killings were ruled justifiable, mirroring a trend of increase in many American cities.
The city began 2021 with three killings in three days – one per day.
Rev. Paul Hollman of Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church in Birmingham launched a billboard campaign last year to raise awareness after a member of his church was shot to death. This week he called for Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin to declare a state of emergency. Hollman spoke with WBHM’s Andrew Yeager.
Mayor Randall Woodfin pleaded with Birmingham residents on Wednesday to help police in homicide investigations, saying police have “hit a wall that’s hard to crack” in many cases: uncooperative witnesses.
There have been 120 homicides in Birmingham this year, 15 of which have been ruled justifiable. Sixty-two of the remaining 105 homicides remain unsolved. That low clearance rate, Woodfin said, “is not because our detectives are not doing their job.”
“Trust me, they are,” he said during a news conference with Police Chief Patrick Smith. “But we don’t have more solved cases in part because there are some people who know who are behind these killings, but they won’t say anything.”
After several months of study and citizen input, the City of Birmingham announced Thursday that police reforms are underway — some of which will go to effect shortly, others that will take years — with the end goal of making law enforcement more transparent and responsive to the needs of the citizens.
Highlighting a more than 100-page final report called “Reform and Reimagine Birmingham Public Safety,” city officials outlined steps to improve relations between the police and the public, improve training for police, make rules and regulations public, and ultimately increase accountability.
The city’s Public Safety Task Force included a former U.S. attorney, a retired detective, an anti-police-brutality advocate, an attorney and the co-founder of Black Lives Matter Birmingham.
But Mayor Randall Woodfin said the city will need the assistance of healthcare providers and citizens to make the reforms work over the long term. And he rejected calls to defund the police, saying that the most common request he hears from citizens is to beef up the department and put more officers on the job.
Updated — The Birmingham City Council voted Tuesday to implement new software for the Birmingham Police Department’s real-time crime center, despite public concerns that the agreement could pave the way for facial recognition software to be used by city law enforcement.
The resolution will allow the city to lease-purchase rights to Motorola Solutions’ CommandCentral Aware and BriefCam softwares at a total cost of $1,315,659 over a five-year period.
Fifteen residents — several of whom had also vocally opposed Mayor Randall Woodfin’s FY 2021 budget — spoke against the proposed agreement at Tuesday’s meeting, expressing concerns that BriefCam’s capability for facial recognition could have a negative impact on residents, particularly Black people, who are misidentified by such software far more often than white people.
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.
It has been three years since former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman was released from prison after being convicted of federal corruption charges in 2006. One thing remains unchanged about the case: Siegelman maintains he is innocent.
A jury convicted Siegelman of bribery for soliciting a $500,000 donation from then-HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy for a fund to support his education lottery campaign. Prosecutors say in exchange, Siegelman appointed Scrushy to a state hospital regulatory board. Siegelman said the prosecution was politically motivated.
In a new memoir, “Stealing Our Democracy: How the Political Assassination of a Governor Threatens our Nation,” Seigelman lays out how he saw the case and trial. But paints himself as a fighter for criminal justice reform after experiencing what he believes was an improper prosecution.
Crime isn’t taking a coronavirus holiday, but law enforcement statistics show it headed in a positive direction as more people shelter from the pandemic.
In fact, streets in the Birmingham area and around the world are not only safer from crime so far in 2020, but also from automobile accidents. Evidence indicates, however, that domestic disturbance calls in some communities are increasing as people spend more hours together at home.
Jefferson County Commissioner Lashunda Scales came across Linn Park today to speak to the Birmingham City Council, pleading for help for what she said are rising instances of crime in the East Precinct. Read more.