HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - Huntsville City Council members will meet Wednesday night to talk about the Huntsville Police Citizens Advisory Council’s review of the 2020 summer protests.
Last week, independent attorneys on behalf of HPCAC presented their review of what they say happened during those protests. The report found several things the police handled well during the June 1 and June 3 protests but also highlighted multiple policy violations.
During Wednesday’s meeting, Councilman Bill Kling is expected to present ideas about how to improve Huntsville Police Department. Kling developed these solutions after seeking the feedback of several community members.
“We had people who came to City Council and they seemed to think their voices were not being heard when they were expressing their concerns and I basically tried to recruit several of them to get their ideas,” Councilman Kling said.
He believes the police department is good but can be better. Councilman Kling stated he wants more emphasis on mental health services, more outreach to the community, more de-escalation training, and a greater focus on trust-building. Kling believes officers should have more downtime with help available after dealing with traumatic calls.
Councilman Kling also stated, moving forward, tear gas should only be used in extreme situations. To prevent those extreme situations in the future, Councilman Kling said people who are found to be in violation of protest permits should instead be arrested. Councilman Kling said he would also like body camera footage released to the public once all court cases and appeals relevant to that footage are done with the consent of those affected or their family members.
Angela Curry, the Lead Liaison for Citizens Coalition for Justice Reform, said her group is asking for accountability.
“We want an authentic policing model where police feel like they are a part of the community and they belong and that citizens will be respected when they encounter law enforcement no matter the color of their skin or the socioeconomic class,” Curry said.
Curry’s group has been outspoken about how the police handled the protests. It’s important to note Curry is one of the citizens Councilman Kling got feedback from to come up with solutions.
“We are asking the city of Huntsville to do the right thing, to do the honorable thing, and what they would want citizens to do when there’s a shortfall. Take responsibility,” Curry said.
Curry said she met with Mayor Tommy Battle last week briefly and looks forward to what city leaders have to say Wednesday night.
We reached out to Huntsville Police Department for comment ahead of the work session, and we were told we can expect that later.
Instead, we got the statement below:
“The Huntsville Police Department appreciates the Huntsville Police Citizens Advisory Council for taking the time to conduct a thorough review of our department’s actions surrounding the protest events in June 2020. I look forward to reviewing the findings and recommendations with my Command Staff and City leadership to determine how we can become an even better and stronger department. There is a lot of information in the review so let us have some time to fully read the report, process the information, and we will be back here on April 28th for a work session to discuss our plans moving forward,” said Chief Mark McMurray.