Mayor Sandy Stimpson is not in favor of another layer of oversight into complaints filed against the Mobile Police Department.
During a press conference Wednesday morning, Stimpson stood by Police Chief James Barber and called the suggestion for a citizen committee to review complaints “misguided.”
“If there was a problem where we weren’t addressing complaints … it would be worthy of discussion,” he said. “I don’t see the need for an oversight committee.”
Councilman Levon Manzie suggested the idea of a citizen oversight committee to review complaints during Tuesday’s City Council meeting. The council had heard from Sharon Perry, who felt MPD officers had unfairly profiled her 18-year-old son. Barber balked at the suggestion of the new committee, saying there were already enough layers of oversight within the department to look into complaints.
“If you really think you need a review committee, I think you have the wrong chief,” Barber told the council.
Stimpson said he felt the level of oversight was sufficient. Complaints begin at the department level, but can progress to internal affairs, the county personnel board and even the U.S. Department of Justice.
Some councilors Tuesday suggested the committee was a good idea because other cities have similar groups. Stimpson said that it’s important to look at other cities in the area of best practices, adding that some cities that are without checks and balances and may need a citizen oversight committee for complaints.
Stimpson wasn’t against other ideas offered by councilors to help deal with complaints against the department and he said he would leave the decision of whether to equip officers with body cameras to Barber.
The cameras and software would cost between $400,000 and $500,000, which would have to come from the capital budget. Stimpson said he feels capital money could be better spent on replacing older patrol cars in the MPD’s fleet.
When they passed the 2015 fiscal year budget, the City Council took $2.5 million out of capital funds to pay for health insurance for Medicare-eligible city retirees. Additionally, the council took $1.5 million Stimpson had earmarked for park improvement and put it toward helping the county pay for its proposed soccer and aquatic complex.
“Those checks have not been signed,” Stimpson said. “It gives us an opportunity to work with council on it.”