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ACLU, NAACP make demands of authorities following Hoover police shooting

Brandon Moseley

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Thursday, the ACLU of Alabama and Alabama NAACP filed public records requests to police departments in Birmingham, Mobile, Montgomery, Hoover, Huntsville, and Saraland for their use-of-force policies, body camera policies, and racial bias training materials, following the Thanksgiving shooting of Emantic “E.J.” Fitzgerald Bradford Jr. and other incidents where excessive use of force has been accused in Alabama.

The civil rights groups said that they are calling for “transparency and accountability.”

“Far too often, the concept of ‘reasonable force’ has been distorted to justify police officers killing or seriously injuring people of color for indefensible reasons,” stated ACLU Alabama policy analyst Dillon Nettles. “The death of EJ Bradford by the Hoover Police Department is a reminder of the tragic loss a family and community faces when law enforcement utilizes lethal force.”

“Law enforcement must implement transformative reforms that build public trust and lead to humane, equitable, and constitutional policing in all communities,” Nettles said. “We plan to fight for that transparency by collecting policies, practices, and data for departments across the state in the hope that it leads to greater accountability for violations of law, policy, and community trust.”

“Too many of our young black males, in particular, are being shot and killed like animals and no one is held accountable,” said Alabama NAACP President Bernard Simelton. “These tragic scenes must stop. The people in our communities deserve to know the policies and procedures that Law Enforcement Agencies use when engaging individuals with weapons. The NAACP has advocated for use of body cameras by police officers so that the community could see really what happened, but when Law Enforcement refuses to release the video to the public, it does not help the situation. It is as if the video was never taken.”

In addition to E. J. Bradford, they cited: Chikesia Clemons, a Black woman wrestled to the ground and exposed for making a complaint at a Waffle House in Saraland; Ulysses Wilkerson, a Black teenager, beaten and hospitalized in Troy; Sureshbhai Patel, an elderly Indian man, slammed to the ground in Madison; and Greg Gunn, a Black man shot and killed walking home in Montgomery.

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Simelton and Nettles claim that incidents of excessive and oftentimes lethal force, particularly towards people of color, is an epidemic. The Washington Post reported that 987 people were shot and killed by police in 2017.

They did admit that police officers do not see a systemic issue. A Pew Research Center poll released in 2017 found that two-thirds of the nation’s police officers believe the deaths of Black Americans during encounters with police are isolated incidents and not an indication of broader problems between law enforcement and the Black community.

They claim in a statement that this, “Disconnect between law enforcement and Black people shows that culture shifts and internal reform of police policies are needed to prompt agents of the law to foster a positive, trusting relationship with the communities they serve. Given this recent tragedy, Alabama law enforcement must be held to the same principles of transparency and open decision-making that other government officials accept as a condition of operating in a democratic society.”

The public records request is available at:

https://www.aclualabama.org/sites/default/files/prrletter20181212-useofforce.pdf

On Wednesday night, protestors crowded the Target store in Hoover. Several groups are protesting Hoover because of their view that the slaying of E.J. Bradford by a uniformed off-duty Hoover police officer at Hoover’s Riverchase Galleria in the moments following a shoot over some shoes was unjustifiable. The Bradford shooting is still under investigation by the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA).

Some individuals have called for a boycott of the city of Hoover.

Crime

Opinion | Slain Birmingham officer needed our help

Josh Moon

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On Sunday, Birmingham Police Sergeant Wytasha Carter was shot and killed by some criminals who were apparently trying to break into cars.

Carter died at the scene. His partner was also shot, and remains in critical condition at UAB Hospital.

It was senseless. And stupid. And maddening.

And not at all unpredictable.

In fact, it’s astounding that it has taken this long for a cop in one of the most violent cities in America — one of the most violent industrialized nations on earth — to be killed. Carter was the first police officer murdered in the city in 14 years.

In that same city, more than 200 people have been killed — most of them by gunfire — in just the past TWO YEARS.

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And it will get worse.

It will get worse because we continue to turn a blind eye to the root causes of the violence that permeates our major cities: under-education, extreme poverty, drug use and a flood of easy-to-obtain firearms.

To put that another way: you have large groups of people who are hopeless, desperate and angry. They have been failed at every step of their lives — by their parents, their government, their schools and their justice system. They have been immersed in horrific violence since birth. They have no idea what acceptable conflict resolution even is, much less how to practice it. And they have been afforded ridiculously easy access to any firearm they would like.

A few years ago, as Montgomery suffered through one of the ugliest and deadliest years on record, I spent several days essentially hanging out in the highest crime neighborhoods — the projects, the abandoned apartment buildings, the neighborhoods you tell your kids to avoid when they start driving.

What I found was depressing.

Because these were not bad people, They were not lazy or unmotivated. They were not happy with their lives, nor were they particularly hostile.

They were hopeless.

Every single day mothers in those neighborhoods sent their kids off to schools that they knew were failing them. Every day, they prayed that their kids found some crack to slip through and into a better life — maybe they would be great at sports or a gifted student who landed in a magnet program or … hell, anything.

But deep down, they knew.

They knew that at some point reality would take hold. Their kids, lured by quick and easy money, would fall into the gangs. The violence and crime would take root and become common. Juvenile detention facilities would follow. And probably, if their kids survived, jail and prison.

The stories are more nuanced, and there are more twists and turns along the way, but this was life in a nutshell for a good chunk of Alabama’s capital city.

The people had no hope.

And when such a thing happens, when you remove hope from hurting people, you also remove a valuation of life. Their life seems to be so utterly unvalued by everyone, so why should they value yours?

Or a cop’s?

This is where we are. And it’s getting worse.

You can get angry and stomp your feet and pretend that sticking kids in electric chairs or locking ‘em all up is going to solve it, but it’s not. Deep down, after centuries of that nonsense, surely you all know that by now.

The only thing that will solve it is love.

Until we love the poor kids, the black kids, the brown kids and all of the other kids who are a little bit different, this will never get better. Until we are as invested in the kids who dress in ratty clothes and have bad attitudes, in the kids who don’t speak the language well and who fight first and ask questions later, we will continue to produce murderers and cop killers.

It seems that Sgt. Carter knew this.

In interviews with local media outlets, those who knew Carter best said he served Birmingham because he wanted to make a difference in his city. He wanted kids and the good people to feel some measure of safety. He wanted kids to know there were alternatives to the gangs..

But mostly, he wanted the people in the worst parts of his city to simply know that someone cared about them.

Sgt. Carter didn’t die because his efforts were naive or misguided, or because the people he tried to help are too hopeless.

He died because not enough us joined him.

 

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Crime

Birmingham police officer killed, second in critical condition

Brandon Moseley

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Saturday night two Birmingham Police officers were shot. Sergeant Wytasha Carter has died from his wounds and the second officer remains in critical condition.

On Sunday, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) announced the tragic news of Sergeant Carter’s wounds.

“We began today with the heartbreaking news that Birmingham Police Sergeant Wytasha Carter was killed in the line of duty and a second officer still remains in critical condition,” Gov. Ivey said. “On behalf of the entire state of Alabama, I offer my deepest sympathies and prayers as we all mourn the death of Sergeant Carter, which came far too soon. This is a terrible loss for Sergeant Carter’s loved ones, his fellow law enforcement officers and our entire state. Let us keep Sergeant Carter, his wife and children close to our hearts during this difficult time.”

“I offer my fervent prayers to the second officer still fighting to stay alive,” Ivey continued. “I also pray for the doctors, nurses and staff working to help this officer survive the tragedy. To this officer, know that the people of Alabama stand behind you.”

“We must never forget the tremendous sacrifice that our law enforcement make each and every day,” Ivey concluded. “We certainly will always remember Birmingham Police Sergeant Wytasha Carter and his ultimate sacrifice for the people of Birmingham who he served so well.”

“Sgt. Wytasha Carter laid down his life for the city he served,” Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin said. “This husband and father was a true public servant and will be honored by each of us.”

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“As this investigation continues, I ask that everyone pause and reflect on how our Birmingham police officers go out every day to protect our community,” Mayor Woodfin added. “We also remain in prayer for the second officer who was shot along with Sgt. Carter. He is currently in critical condition.”

“This tragedy is a heartbreaking reminder of the dangers all law enforcement face while we sleep,” U.S. Attorney Jay Town said. “While they keep us safe. While they do the job. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the officers, the officer still fighting for life, and the fallen officer whose end of watch came much too soon.”

“As the scripture teaches us, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”” Woodfin concluded. “Each day, Birmingham police officers risk their lives when they report for duty. This is a time of mourning for our city, but please know our police officers will be dedicated to justice and continued service for the people of Birmingham.”

Wytasha Carter was highly respected in the Birmingham Police force.

“He was just driven,’’ said his supervisor, Lt. Shelia Finney. “He was a great sergeant. I enjoyed working with him.’’

Sgt. Carter was killed in the line of duty as he investigated car burglaries in the 900 block of Fifth Avenue North. Th other officer is being treated at UAB Hospital.

The police have apprehended two suspects. The case remains under investigation.

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Courts

Brooks voted against bipartisan criminal justice reform

Brandon Moseley

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Congressman Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, voted “No” on S. 756, the First Step Act of 2018. Rep. Brooks says that the legislation releases violent criminals from prison early, making Americans less safe and more likely to be victims of violent crimes and drug overdoses.

“The Senate version of the First Step Act is a step backward,” Rep. Brooks said. “My experience in law enforcement taught me early on that strong enforcement of criminal statutes and tough penalties for criminal conduct help keep dangerous criminals off the street. To be clear, I joined 359 of my House colleagues in voting ‘Yes’ on the House version of the First Step Act, which did not include dramatic cuts in criminal penalties and early release provisions for violent criminals. It is only a matter of time before the verdict on this legislation is rendered: more crime, more crime victims, and more dead Americans. To cite but one major flaw, S. 756 as amended CUTS penalties for gun use during the commission of violent crimes. That is nuts! Further, this soft-on-crime bill even provides for early release of offenders who commit sex crimes, assault law enforcement officers, commit hate crimes, and assist with jailbreaks.”

“Many major, national law enforcement groups strongly oppose this bill including but not limited to the National Sheriffs Association, the Major County Sheriffs Association, the Major City Chiefs Association, and the National Association of Police Organizations,” Rep. Brooks continued. “In sum, this bill makes America a more dangerous place to live. According to FBI annual ‘Crime in America’ data, violent crime has fallen sharply over the last quarter decade in America.[3] Why? Because, as every law enforcement officer knows, the greater the penalty for violation of criminal laws, the greater the deterrence and the less the crime. Further, stiff criminal penalties keep violent repeat criminals off the streets and in jail. The Senate-amended First Step Act kicks violent, repeat offenders out of jail much quicker than under current law. Reform efforts should focus on reducing crime and apprehending suspects. This bill does none of that.”

“The bottom line is, at a time when fatal drug overdoses plague our nation, Congress has irresponsibly passed legislation that increases the likelihood that even more fatal drugs will be imported into America by illegal aliens and foreign drug cartels,” Brooks concluded. “Let the record show, I voted against this irresponsible, soft-on-crime, and dangerous legislation.”

The National Sheriffs’ Association and the Major County Sheriffs of America wrote in a letter to Senate leadership: “The current draft of the First Step legislation remains troubling to the leaders of law enforcement. Sheriffs are elected solely to protect our communities, and Police Chiefs have taken an oath to protect the public. We feel unless the changes recommended below are enacted, this legislation creates a high-risk path for dangerous criminals with gun crime histories to early release from prison. This amounts to a social experiment with the safety of our communities and the lives of Sheriffs, deputies and police officers in the balance. Please know that we did not come to this conclusion lightly. We have been working diligently with the Administration to correct these inequities. It is our hope the Senate will listen to the nation’s elected Sheriffs and the Chiefs of Police of our nation’s most populous cities.”

The bill passed with bipartisan support and was signed by President Donald J. Trump (R) into law on Friday.

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Crime

Decatur police raid casino disguised as church

Josh Moon

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Preaching to the right, antiques to the left, gambling in the back.

Decatur Police announced over the weekend that it had shut down an illegal casino operating inside a purported church and antique store.

Signs outside of a building which used to house McCollum’s Seafood Restaurant — a longtime Decatur staple — advertised Life Church and Vintage Treasures antiques. But inside, in a secret room in the back, Decatur Police say they confiscated 17 slot machine-type gambling machines.

Additionally, police say they discovered “an alarm and bell system” set up to warn workers if police showed up.

“During the month of December, DPD had received multiple reports of a gambling ‘casino’ operation inside of the old McCollum’s Seafood Restaurant,” a post on the Decatur PD’s Facebook page said. “Investigators discovered a large gambling machine operation inside of the church.”

DPD arrested Timothy Keith Roberts, of Huntsville, on charges of promoting gambling and unlawful maintenance of electric bells, etc., both felony charges.

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Donna Joanne Weir, of Meridian, Miss., a worker at the church/store/casino, was also arrested on charges of promoting gambling.

It was the second arrest for Roberts in the last two years for gambling-related crimes. He was also arrested in Decatur in 2017 for possession of a gambling device and establishing a gambling place.

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ACLU, NAACP make demands of authorities following Hoover police shooting

by Brandon Moseley Read Time: 3 min
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