Huntsville Police Citizens Advisory Council returns under new guidelines

Published: Jan. 12, 2022 at 6:16 AM CST
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - The updated Huntsville Police Citizens Advisory Council (HPCAC) kicks off the year with some changes. The group is getting bigger and meeting more often.

Huntsville’s city council approved an ordinance restructuring the group in mid-November.

The ordinance makes two big changes. First, elected officials will now choose the council members instead of appointed officials like the police chief. Now, the mayor chooses three HPCAC members and each city council member chooses two.

HPCAC members have four-year terms.

Another big change, they have to meet more often. HPCAC member David Little says for the past few years, they only met twice a year. “When we originally formed, we had quarterly public meetings and we would rotate between city council districts and hardly anyone would show up and there would be like three or four members of the public.” HPCAC chair, Jon Harrow, says they plan to meet eight times this year.

HPCAC are now mandated to interact more with HPD. At least two members have to go police incidence board reviews. Monthly, they will meet with the police chief.

Councilmember Bill Kling says they made these changes because these policies are considered best practices right now.

There is also increased interest in monitoring the Huntsville Police Department after a few incidences of police brutality. Including the protests in June 2020 against police brutality after George Floyd was murdered that ended in officers deploying tear gas and rubber bullets and when Huntsville Police Officer William Darby shot and killed Jeffrey Parker. Darby was taken off the force and sentenced to prison for murder.

Council Concerns

Many engaged citizens who work with the council are cautiously optimistic about their new changes.

Claudia Mensil is involved in local politics and a member of the Citizen’s Coalition for Justice Reform.

She says another concern is transparency when it comes to the issues the council is investigating and the recommendations they put forward. She says she would like to see updates about their process in future meetings.

Mesnil explains her group also wants the council to have more teeth. She says the council can make recommendations on police department policies but they don’t have to follow them.

Her last main concern, the communication between the council and the general public. She says she wants to see some improvements there. “We haven’t necessarily been in communication with the council they haven’t necessarily involved us in this process. We’re looking forward to seeing what they’re going to involve the public in.”

The HPCAC’s first meeting of the year and first meeting following the new guidelines is Tuesday. They will be changing locations for each meeting to make sure they meet at least once in each city district. The meeting is in District One at the North Huntsville Library.

Anyone is invited to attend. If someone is unable to attend, HPCAC is taking questions through their website and Facebook page.

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