Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?


Opinion | Decatur police officers are antagonizing their community

Since Steve’s death, the community has been furious and consistently demanded justice and accountability.

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Since Sept. 29, the Decatur Police Department has engaged in tactics to antagonize and repress the citizenry it is supposed to “serve and protect” simply for protesting the killing of Steve Perkins by Decatur officers. 

Perkins was killed, effectively ambushed, by Decatur police officers who never went to his front door to identify themselves. Instead, they parked their vehicles out of view and proceeded to hide outside Perkins’ house and across the street. Perkins was trying to stop his car from being repossessed and after coming outside with a flashlight or a gun, Officer Mac Bailey Marquette came from behind Perkins’ home, issued a command and within barely a second shot Perkins about 20 times killing him.

Since Steve Perkins’ death, the community has been furious and consistently demanded justice and accountability for his death. But the response by Mayor Tab Bowling’s office and police has been to utilize the law to restrict protests primarily under the broad definition of “disorderly conduct.” Over 30+ protestors have been arrested since Perkins’ killing often under the disorderly conduct charge as many demonstrations have been held in Decatur or outside the mayor’s house. 

But this past Friday exemplified the disdain with which officers have for the community invoking their right to protest or assemble. Decatur police officers actively escalated situations to try and arrest people including Perkins’ widow, Catrela Perkins. How do you kill an individual’s husband and then proceed to arrest her for inquiring about an arrest in front of her 8-year-old daughter? And to be clear, this was not even a protest but a simple, peaceful assembly seeking to spread awareness about Steve Perkins.

Yet officers, specifically Lt. Joe Renshaw, appeared keen to arrest someone that day for any minute reason. Perkins’ widow’s arrest was ordered by Renshaw after, and video from the ordeal shows Chief Todd Pinion working to figure out who exactly was arrested as he had no control over his own officers. Catrela Perkins was released by Pinion, but she described the arrest as harassment. 

In another video from Friday, Renshaw begins by having words with a crowd of people warning they’ll be arrested for disorderly conduct. See how easily that charge can be used and why so many are being threatened with it? Later in the video, Renshaw orders another officer to arrest a man identified as Derek Taylor.

Renshaw appeared to be annoyed that Derek told them to “find a problem somewhere else,” because Renshaw briefly had words for Morgan County NAACP President Rodney Gordon. Renshaw said that he would arrest Gordon because he seemed to be the primary instigator. But, Renshaw initiated Gordon first after the crowd was already dispersing. After Derek is stopped by officers, Renshaw tells Derek to take off the mask or he’ll be arrested for disorderly conduct. However, under the Code of Alabama, wearing a mask does not violate the disorderly conduct statute, effectively meaning officers used unlawful reasoning to target Taylor to begin with. As Taylor tries to tell officers he has the mask on because he is sick, Renshaw quickly calls for Taylor’s arrest. 

In the video, Renshaw also puts a taser right on Derek’s chest telling him to stop resisting. Yet, Derek showed no sign of resistance. All he did was take off his mask like Renshaw instructed.

The incident demonstrates another issue with policing, giving confusing commands that prevent an individual from complying. For example, Renshaw tells Derek to take the mask off or he’ll be arrested, but two seconds later officers begin to arrest Derek. Then, once Derek complies and takes the mask off he is now seen as “resisting arrest” because officers have their hands on his arm restricting him. But again, the impetus of the interaction was the unlawful claim by Renshaw that Derek would be arrested for disorderly conduct. 

In fact, Derrick’s charges when he was booked into jail were for loitering and resisting arrest, not disorderly conduct. 

Screenshot of Derrick’s charges.

I did not know an individual could cause such hoopla because of a mask, but it also demonstrates the desperation to arrest someone and how police hate face coverings because they want to be able to identify and surveil individuals. Also, Renshaw apparently likes to call people “indigenous local hood rats,” according to a Facebook post he made.


To further demonstrate how officers feel about the people they are supposed to be serving, Derek’s wife, Sierra Taylor, said she was punched by an officer several weeks ago. According to a newspaper clipping, the officer, Jack Brown, punched Mrs. Taylor, and while booking her into jail he bragged that he enjoyed it. This was confirmed by the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office spokesman.

The message sent from Friday’s actions and the actions of the Decatur police since Sept. 29 is clear. The police are tired of the movement seeking Justice for Steve, and any protest, demonstration or peaceful assembly will be met with state repression or the threat of arrest to dissuade people from organizing or to enrage people giving officers an excuse to make more arrests.

Patrick Darrington is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected].

More from APR


Despite the potential public health benefits, strong opposition has emerged from major tobacco companies.

Public safety

Catrela Perkins was arrested and later released during the latest ugly incident between DPD and citizens.

Local news

A weekend incident is the latest in a string of arrests that have been made against protesters since the death of Stephen Perkins.

Local news

Decatur is seeking to change when, how, and if individuals and groups can peacefully protest.