Decatur Police creates new citizens advisory council to help govern department

Morgan County NAACP Press Conference

DECATUR, Ala. (WAFF) - Decatur’s Police Chief and Mayor joined with a Morgan County NAACP leader to announce the creation of a new citizens advisory council for the Decatur Police Department.

The announcement was made in a press conference held Friday afternoon at Decatur City Hall.

Decatur Police Chief Nate Allen, Mayor Tab Bowling, and Morgan County NAACP President Rodney Gordon made the announcement together.

The new advisory council will be made up of 11 people, it’s chair will be Decatur Pastor Jerry Baker. Also on the council is Rodney Gordon from the Morgan County NAACP.

The council will meet once a month, its first meeting was held Thursday.

Morgan County NAACP President Rodney Gordon says his chapter is working with Decatur Police to put in place other reforms.

Gordon listed some of those reforms including: thorough background checks for new Decatur Police hires, the release of body and dash cam footage, race relation training, and “shoot to kill versus shoot to wound training” for officers.

As for the new citizens advisory board, Decatur Police Chief Nate Allen said it would help him set direction and address community complaints concerning his department.

"We are here to make this community feasible for everyone," said Rodney Gordon, "we don't want people to be afraid to call the police."

Gordon said the new advisory board would look at an incident that recently came to light in Decatur from March 15th.

In that incident surveillance footage showed that a Decatur Police Officer had punched business owner Kevin Penn who had called 911 after apprehending a shoplifter in his store.

The officer who threw the punch has been identified as Justin Rippen, an internal affairs review of the incident is ongoing.

The officer said he believed Penn was reaching for a gun.

Decatur Police have released body camera footage of the incident as well.

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