The Mobile City Council on Tuesday tabled an ordinance sponsored by Mayor Sandy Stimpson that would allow the city’s police officers more latitude in dealing with suspects accused of minor charges, such as possessing marijuana for personal use.
Currently someone arrested for a minor offense, such as second-degree marijuana possession, would be taken into custody and transported to Metro Jail before being released on their own recognizance, Public Safety Director James Barber said. Under the proposed changes, someone suspected of a minor offense would be given a citation and could either plead guilty by paying the $100 fine, or go through the court system as usual, he said.
“The purpose of the ordinance is to keep officers on the street,” Barber said. “It just gives the officers another option.”
Barber said the process would be similar to receiving a traffic citation.
Loitering, second- and third-degree criminal trespassing, disorderly conduct, minor in possession, public intoxication, public lewdness, possession of drug paraphernalia and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle are charges that would apply to the proposed ordinance.
The City Council tabled a vote on the ordinance and will convene a meeting of the Public Safety Committee on the topic next month.
In comments made during the meeting, Stimpson said he supported bringing the proposed ordinance to the Public Safety Committee. He added that some media coverage of the ordinance had “erroneously tagged it” as several different things, but that it is simply a way to improve public safety.
“It’s not about being soft on crime,” he said. “It’s the opposite. It allows officers to take more time out on the streets.”
In other business, the council delayed a vote on an appeal of an April Planning Commission decision to allow St. Luke’s Episcopal School to add stands, a press box and lights to a combination football and soccer field on campus.
The main concerns from residents in adjacent communities were over the lights being used and the impact those lights would have on the residents’ quality of life.
Bob Peter, a Regency Oaks resident, said those opposed to the lights believe the Planning Commission’s decision was arbitrary for a number of reasons. For instance, he said the commission ignored a recommendation that would’ve forced St. Luke’s to diminish the level of light in some areas. While the standard laid out in the city’s ordinance is no more than .2 footcandles for the nearest property owner, in some areas near the proposed site of the field the footcandles measure as many as 6. Other nearby residents complained about possible noise from the field.
James Brandyburg, a supporter of the field and father of a rising senior football player, told councilors the school would comply with all the regulations set forth. The Planning Commission did stipulate that the lights in the field must be off within 15 minutes after a game has ended. The field also can’t be used more than 65 nights during the school year.
The council reallocated a total of $150,000 for a parks and recreation master plan. The council also authorized a lease agreement with Cobalt Realty that would allow the city to move the MPD’s second precinct to the Tillman’s Corner Square shopping center.