Ferguson, Missouri was on the mind of Mobile City Councilors after a Mobile resident complained Tuesday that her son was being racially profiled by Mobile police.
On two separate occasions this year, Sharon Perry said her 18-year-old son, Demarcus Edwards, was unfairly pulled over by police. She told the council she was afraid if it continues, her son’s life could be in danger.
“I don’t trust them,” Perry said of police. “For the first time in my life – and I’ve lived in Mobile my entire life – I’ve considered moving away to keep my son alive.”
The first incident occurred in February when her son was driving home from church. She said he was cruising through the Morningside neighborhood when he saw an officer behind him. Perry said he pulled into a neighbor’s house to let the officer pass, but the officer stopped behind him.
“They asked him to get out of the car,” she said. “They searched him and the car.”
Perry said he was let go without a ticket and police explained to her he was searched because of the neighborhood’s high crime rate.
A second incident happened when Edwards was driving between Theodore High School and a shop he frequents in the Tillman’s Corner area, Perry said. In that instance, he pulled into a Citgo station and called his mother on the phone.
“He said the officer was just watching him from across the parking lot,” she said.
The officer came up to him, while Edwards repeated that he had done nothing wrong. The officer cited him for a seatbelt violation.
Perry said she has filed a complaint with the department and the city over the issue.
Perry’s concerns over profiling were echoed by councilmember C.J. Small, who said he’s heard similar complaints among residents of District 3. Small commended Chief James Barber for cracking down on misconduct within the department, but also suggested body cameras for officers may make complaints easier to investigate.
Councilman Fred Richardson said he supports the idea of investing in body cameras, as well as dash-mounted cameras.
“As for the issue of what to do when you’re pulled over, obey the police,” Richardson said.
He said you can file a complaint later, just do as the police tell you during the traffic stop.
Councilman Levon Manzie suggested the council form a citizens’ review committee to offer an “unbiased review and recommendations” of complaints involving police.
But Barber bristled at the notion, saying that the department has several layers of review for complaints. In addition, he said, the FBI and the Department of Justice also review certain complaints against the department.
“If you really think you need a review committee, I think you have the wrong chief,” he said.
In other business, the council held over a vote that would allow the residents of the Airmont subdivision to close one of two entrances to the neighborhood. Eaton Barnard, of the Airmont Property Owners Association, said residents are concerned over increased burglaries and robberies in the neighborhood and think closing the subdivision’s Cottage Hill Road entrance would cut down on it.
In addition, residents wanted to put an end to drivers using the neighborhood street to avoid the light at Cottage Hill and Azalea.
They held over a decision to amend the city code on off-street parking. Councilwoman Bess Rich has been asking for the city to amend the code to differentiate between parking needed for normal rental housing and student housing.
She has argued in the past the necessary one and half parking spaces required for apartments in most parts of the city would have to be increased to deal with student housing near University of South Alabama, where there may be as many as four cars per unit.
The council approved an agreement with the Alabama Department of Transportation for right-of-way acquisition worth $193,232 for the second part of a project for additional lanes on Zeigler Boulevard. The second phase of the project extends from Schillinger to Cody roads.
The council approved the appointment of Chassity Ebbole to the Citizens’ Park and Recreation Advisory Committee.