The Mobile City Council on Tuesday got the votes it needed to create a citizen review board for the Mobile Police Department.
With Councilwoman Bess Rich absent from the meeting, Councilman John Williams represented the only dissenting vote in the 5-1 decision. A supermajority of five votes was required to pass the new ordinance.
The approved ordinance represents a marriage of two previous iterations, both of which were tabled. The new ordinance creates a Police Citizens Community Relations Advisory Council made up of eight members.
The council will appointment seven members — one from each of the city’s seven council districts — and Mayor Sandy Stimpson will appoint one. In one proposed version of the ordinance, Stimpson was given no appointments. His own proposal would have given him seven, in addition to the City Council’s seven.
Each member of the advisory council will be required to attend a six-hour orientation training at the MPD firing range, as well as cultural sensitivity training similar to what officers are required to take. Appointees must also, at least yearly, participate in ride-alongs with patrol units. They must be residents of Mobile, and cannot be employed by the city.
The initial appointees will have terms that expire Nov. 1, 2017. Thereafter, appointees will serve two-year terms; all appointees must appear on the council agenda to be voted on by the entire council.
Council President Gina Gregory said advisory council members also will be encouraged to attend meetings of Chief James Barber’s own citizen advisory panel, but will not be required to do so.
The board’s stated purpose is as follows: To promote the concepts shared by police, citizens and the community through “the maintenance of law and order, reduction of crime, and the protection of the community”; to “promote and encourage open communications” between the police and citizens; to “make recommendations directed toward informing the community of its rights and responsibilities” when dealing with officers; to allow for and foster community participation in law enforcement; to promote productive citizen and police interaction; and to recommend programs “designed to make law enforcement sensitive, effective and responsive” to citizen needs.
During the meeting, Councilman Fred Richardson said one way the group could accomplish its goals would be to encourage teens to stay in school, suggesting dropouts are the cause of much of the city’s crime.
“They can fight crime by helping to make sure all kids graduate high school,” Richardson said. “We need to make sure we get rid of the problem.”
Richardson, Councilman C.J. Small and Councilman Levon Manzie applauded the council’s efforts, while Councilman Joel Daves admitted he was originally on the fence about supporting the advisory council. He said he was hesitant to do anything that would “hobble” the police force and Barber. Daves added he wanted whatever was done to make the situation better, not worse.
“This ordinance achieved those two objectives,” he said.
Daves said the ordinance represents a true compromise, as no one on the council liked every part of it.
“We all came together and passed something we could live with,” he said.
In other business, Daves, chairman of the council’s finance committee, announced councilors will hold a public hearing on Stimpson’s proposed budget during its regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 6.