HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - People across the nation are protesting for an end to racial discrimination, but also for police accountability. It is part of the reason why the NAACP is demanding police departments create citizens review boards.
In Huntsville, we have a citizens advisory council, created a decade ago as a bridge between the department and the community they serve. On the first Tuesday of every month, ten volunteers of all different races, ages, and backgrounds meet to review the actions of Huntsville police through the city’s citizens advisory council.
It was created in 2010 after a 79-year-old man said he was injured by police force.
“It was noticed that there needed to be a citizens advisory council formed to help establish a better relationship between citizens and the police,” said co-chair Vicki Guerrieri. She currently serves as the board’s co-chair and said the board reviews department policies like body cams and tazer use. They can also recommend additional training for officers. However, the board can only offer suggestions, members have no legal authority throughout the city.
“We can ask questions there and bring things up that we have questions on. But as far as any criminal process we have no authority,” said Guerrieri. “To have a citizens review board to have authority over the police, you would have to have someone who is without bias and fully understands why police do what they do.”
Current board member and former chairman David Little said the board was instrumental in bringing body cameras and non-lethal force devices like tazers to the department. He said other cities across the state are using the Huntsville Police Citizens Advisory Board as a model. “I think what is critical is having a good relationship between the council and the police department. There would be a lot of things that wouldn’t get done if they didn’t trust us,” said Little.
And with everything going on across the country, board members believe these discussions are more important than maybe ever before. “Where do we go from here to bring the country together? I wish someone had a solution because I think all of us feel the same way,” said Guerrieri.
Board members said they will be discussing the police tactics used during last week's protests at their next meeting.
We have requested the Citizens Advisory Council recommendations over the past year on cases they oversaw and whether Chief Mark McMurray took their recommendations.
We will update you as we learn more.