Political and religious leaders have expressed disappointment in the Mobile Police Department and Mayor Sandy Stimpson for allowing an officer at the center of a police-involved shooting to perform administrative duties while investigations into the matter continue.
Officer Harold Hurst had been on paid administrative leave since he shot and killed 19-year-old Michael Moore June 13 following a traffic stop police say escalated to a confrontation. However, on Wednesday, the department confirmed Hurst returned to work last week, though not in his previous position as a patrol officer in the city’s third precinct.According to MPD Spokeswoman Charlette Solis, Hurst is performing administrative duties in the MPD’s crime prevention unit. No information on the duties of that unit is available on the department’s website.
“Officer Hurst has been and remains relieved of his official duties as a police officer pending the outcome of a multi-agency investigation,” Mobile Police Chief James Barber said in a statement Thursday. “The FBI, Department of Justice, MPD Internal Affairs and Homicide Unit, along with the District Attorney’s Office, are continuing their respective investigations.”
Barber said Hurst “must be accessible at all times” during the investigations that are still underway, but the decision is drawing criticism from many who have already been critical of the MPD in the three weeks since Moore’s death.
The Leaders of Truth and Justice — a group comprising state senators and representatives, Mobile City Council members and religious leaders in the black community — has already publicly questioned the integrity of the MPD’s own investigation.
On Thursday, the group released a statement calling the decision to have Hurst back in the office “inflammatory” and “disrespectful.”
“We are extremely disappointed that Mayor Sandy Stimpson has allowed Officer Harold Hurst to return back to work,” the statement reads. “Though this may be following police department protocol, his return to work is absolutely disrespectful to the family of Michael Moore and the community, especially since the investigation is not complete.”
The names of those in the Leaders of Truth and Justice can found at the bottom of this report.
The group goes on to encourage Stimpson to change the protocol that allows officers involved in “police shootings” to return to work before they’ve been cleared of wrongdoing. The group emphasised that change as necessary “given the current environment surrounding police shootings around the country.”
Just this week, two cases of officer-involved shootings have exacerbated the national debate surrounding the use of deadly force by law enforcement officers. Those incidents, which resulted in the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, have sparked protests in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Falcon Heights, Minnesota, respectively.
Though there have been some demonstrations locally, Moore’s death has not garnered the same level of protests or national media coverage.
“Mobile has been very tolerant and patient,” the Leaders of Truth and Justice said in their statement. “Citizens have listened to their leaders and remained calm. We want them to continue to do so; however, [allowing Hurst to return to administrative duty] is doing nothing but inflaming the situation.”
Lagniappe reached out to Stimpson’s office, but so far the mayor nor his staff have commented on Hurst’s return to the MPD office.
The Leaders of Truth and Justice:
State Senator Vivian Davis Figures, Rep. James Buskey, Rep. Napoleon Bracy, Rep. Barbara Drummond, Rep. Adline Clarke, Councilman Frederick D. Richardson, Councilman C.J. Small, Councilman Levon Manzie, Former Councilman Jermaine Burrell, Former Councilman Clinton Johnson, Rev. Cleveland McFarland, Rev. Montgomery Portis, Rev. Bobby Cox, Rev. Norvel Glover.