Huntsville Police create response to community suggestions

The Huntsville Police Department published its 73-page report Friday afternoon.

Posted: Aug 1, 2020 12:07 AM

After more than two months of off and on protests and calls for police reform around the country and in north Alabama, the Huntsville Police Department (HPD) released its response to a list of changes pushed for by local organizations.

Community activist Rev. Dexter Strong said Friday was "a good first step in a marathon of steps."

"I'm happy that HPD was responsive to community requests, but I am disappointed with what they put forward. The posture predominantly is that HPD is doing everything right already or it's constrained by state law. And if this posture continues to be the predominant attitude of HPD and city officials there will continue to be a rift between community leaders and the people who are called to protect and serve," Strong said.

Huntsville Police Lt. Michael Johnson said many of the items called for by community organizations, like banning chokeholds and having an independent oversight committee, were already in place before coming up in recent weeks.

According to the report, Huntsville Police stopped training its officers to perform "lateral vascular neck restraints," commonly referred to as "chokeholds," back in 2014. However, the document states that while they are not taught in training, chokeholds are not outright forbidden by HPD. 

It states that "while 'chokeholds' are not a trained technique, and are not authorized under normal situations, there are circumstances when an officer's survival may allow for untrained techniques to be used."

Lt. Johnson said that the department is making some changes based on the recommendations from community groups like the Citizens Coalition for Criminal Justice Reform. One update is to have an internal committee made up of a captain and a few lieutenants who will be tasked with reviewing policies every two weeks.

"Having a committee is going to add structure. It's definitely going to make the policy making process change a little bit more robust," Lt. Johnson said.

A timeline for when that will begin hasn't been determined, but Lt. Johnson said it is in active development. He also said some former community programs will be coming back in the near future and the department will launch a podcast to have an ongoing dialogue with members of the community.

In addition, within the next 90 days, they will start populating a website with the department's policies and written directives. Lt. Johnson said he thinks that that along with the report published Friday will help keep the public engaged and interested in policing.

"We're hoping it has a positive effect with what we released. We're trying to be as transparent as possible. Everything, like I said, from our training to our policies to our community outreach programs," Lt. Johnson said.

Huntsville City Council Member Frances Akridge said she is supportive of the police department and was glad to see some of the steps taken with Friday's report. 

She said she is looking into ways to amend the Huntsville Police Citizens Advisory Council (HPCAC), one of which would be to allow them the ability to continuously have access to the misconduct reports of officers.

"I think it would be very helpful if the Citizens Advisory Council not only every once in a while say, 'Oh, let's take a look at those stats,' but that they review them every month," Akridge said.

However, Strong said that the HPCAC needs far more independent power than it currently possesses.

"A citizens' advisory committee without subpoena power is toothless. And I also believe that the Citizens Advisory Committee should be completely detached from the political process. I'm not sure if elected officials should be appointing people to represent the interests of the public, considering that elected officials have political interests to protect and will appoint people who are reflective of their ideology," Strong said.

He said the HPCAC would be better suited under a diversity and inclusion office in the city government. It's unclear if the HPCAC as it currently exists could be moved under the purview of the current Office of Multicultural Affairs in Huntsville.

Right now, the organization is in the midst of reevaluating the protests that happened in Huntsville in early June in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

The results of that won't be known until likely late August or early September, but Strong argued on Friday that even without seeing that review, he said HPD needs to make some changes to how it responds to protests like those.

"If HPD believes that they responded appropriately on June 1 and June 3, as per their bylaws, then there's a vast gulf between the value systems at work at HPD and among municipal leaders and people who feel disaffected and abused by law enforcement," Strong said. 

Community input on those protests is welcomed by the HPCAC until August 7. 

Huntsville
Broken Clouds
68° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 68°
Florence
Broken Clouds
70° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 70°
Fayetteville
Overcast
71° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 71°
Decatur
Broken Clouds
70° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 70°
Scottsboro
Overcast
64° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 64°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 134231

Reported Deaths: 2357
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson19676351
Mobile13373292
Montgomery8834184
Tuscaloosa8621118
Madison788178
Shelby597849
Lee589760
Baldwin547750
Marshall394343
Calhoun351544
Etowah349045
Morgan329228
Houston290321
Elmore266748
DeKalb241621
St. Clair232235
Walker231684
Talladega216629
Limestone210120
Cullman189920
Dallas179026
Franklin177129
Autauga176425
Russell17603
Lauderdale171333
Colbert164626
Blount161115
Escambia160824
Chilton158530
Jackson157511
Covington140127
Dale138644
Coffee13486
Pike119810
Chambers116442
Tallapoosa116085
Clarke109116
Marion96429
Butler91239
Barbour8827
Winston74412
Marengo72020
Pickens66214
Bibb65410
Lowndes65327
Randolph64713
Hale63528
Geneva6254
Lawrence62023
Cherokee60813
Bullock60414
Monroe5898
Clay5858
Washington55713
Perry5416
Crenshaw53732
Conecuh53511
Wilcox53111
Henry5055
Macon48018
Fayette4578
Sumter43819
Cleburne3805
Lamar3672
Choctaw34712
Greene30315
Coosa1713
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 190891

Reported Deaths: 2374
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby30755458
Davidson26474306
Hamilton944394
Knox937879
Rutherford929389
Williamson525236
Sumner481998
Wilson347645
Putnam331540
Montgomery307044
Unassigned29495
Bradley293417
Out of TN289627
Madison287764
Sevier262315
Blount251624
Maury236124
Washington229736
Robertson221035
Sullivan216433
Hamblen191426
Tipton181819
Gibson165823
Trousdale16577
Hardeman157026
Wayne14975
Dyer137014
Bedford134517
Dickson125715
Coffee123613
Cumberland120118
Weakley118919
Fayette118819
Henderson118124
Anderson117913
Loudon11726
Obion117110
Carter116828
Greene115644
Jefferson111914
McMinn111925
Warren10617
Macon105521
Lawrence104313
Monroe103618
Hardin103016
Lauderdale98316
Franklin9699
Haywood96921
Lake9192
Roane8954
Carroll88920
McNairy88318
Bledsoe8544
White8379
Rhea83412
Hawkins81218
Cheatham80710
Marshall7565
Cocke7469
Overton7456
Smith72311
Johnson7112
Chester63210
Henry6259
Lincoln6191
Giles60717
Hickman5858
DeKalb56614
Crockett53819
Marion5298
Decatur5207
Fentress5053
Campbell4464
Claiborne4425
Polk38810
Grainger3763
Union3591
Benton3369
Jackson3265
Morgan3173
Grundy2915
Cannon2860
Unicoi2861
Humphreys2513
Sequatchie2332
Clay2265
Meigs2263
Houston2203
Scott2142
Stewart2042
Lewis2011
Moore1751
Van Buren1660
Perry1500
Pickett1162
Hancock1063

Community Events