After delay, Birmingham board now accepting complaints against police officers

Local News
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(CBS 42)

Christmas Day
December 25 2021 12:00 am

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Despite a delay, Birmingham’s Civilian Review Board is now accepting public complaints against police officers.

The new process for complaints against police was quietly rolled out in the days following a CBS 42 report that showed officials were behind schedule in implementing the new system.

In April, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin established the Birmingham Civilian Review Board (CRB) to “improve relationships between the community-at-large and the Birmingham Police Department.” The executive order creating the board was issued nearly a year after the death of George Floyd spurred protests against police brutality across the nation, including in the Magic City. The move came just a few months ahead of Woodfin’s re-election to a second term.

The CRB is an advisory board to the mayor and is limited in its powers partly because of Alabama law, city officials have said.

The board has four stated missions:

  1. Provide transparency to the public about police operations
  2. Provide the mayor with an independent assessment of police operations
  3. Create a space for accountability of the city and the police department for its operations in support of public safety
  4. To review community complaints of alleged officer misconduct as an independent, civilian-led review board of the Birmingham Police Department

The board’s power to act on officer misconduct claims is limited. For example, while the board can recommend disciplinary actions be taken against an officer, the mayor is not obligated to follow its advice.

Initial reports had indicated the board would begin accepting complaints against police officers from citizens in July. The Civilian Review Board’s frequently asked questions’ (FAQ) document stated earlier this month that complaint processing would begin in October. The city’s Peace and Police website said that “digital complaint forms will be made available shortly on the Office of Peace and Policy’s website, and paper forms will also be available in the Office of Peace of Policy.”

On Nov. 16, CBS 42 reported about the delay in CRB accepting complaints against police officers. Both the board and the mayor’s office were silent on the issue.

Days later, a complaint form is now available on the CRB’s website, although no option is listed to submit it digitally.

Instead, residents are advised to print the necessary form, fill it out, and mail it to the board. The website also says complaints can be filed via telephone. (Information about filing a claim is at the end of this article.)

The complaint form itself is three pages and asks for information about the person filing the complaint, the involved officer(s) and details of the incident. It also asks if the person filing the complaint is interested in mediation, a term the form does not explain.

“Describe your complaint in detail,” the final page of the complaint form says. “Attach additional pages if necessary. Include relevant names, dates and places.”

When the board’s creation was first announced in April, a full list of members was laid out by city officials. A five-member board, the CRB is required to have in its ranks one former judge or prosecutor, one Birmingham resident, one retired officer, one criminal defense attorney and one at-large member to serve as chair.

To fill those roles, Woodfin chose former U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance, Rev. Lawrence Conoway, former Police Chief Annetta Dunn, defense attorney Victor Revill and activist T. Marie King. However, Vance’s image has since been removed from the board’s website, with one position listed as vacant.

Neither Vance nor Woodfin’s office has responded to questions regarding Vance’s position on the board.

Once a complaint is filed with the board, the city’s Office of Peace and Policy has 30 days to conduct “a review and appropriate investigation” of the claim unless an extension is granted.

The form necessary to file a complaint is available on the CRB website and below.

Once completed and signed, it can be mailed to the following address. Complaints can also be called in at (205) 254-2118.

Birmingham Civilian Review Board, 1200 Tuscaloosa Avenue, Birmingham, AL, 35211

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