Birmingham Civilian Review Board, Mayor’s Office silent on delays in accepting complaints against police

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December 25 2021 12:00 am

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — A group created to “review community complaints of alleged officer misconduct” across Birmingham is delayed in accepting those grievances.

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

However, 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 indicated the board would begin accepting complaints against police officers from citizens in July. The Civilian Review Board’s frequently asked questions’ (FAQ) document states that complaint processing would begin in October. The city’s Peace and Police website says 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.”

However, as of Tuesday, no complaint forms were available online. There does not appear to be a formal channel through which Birmingham citizens can submit complaints against police to the board. Despite multiple emails and phone calls, neither the board or the mayor’s office has responded to requests for information on the delay or to answer questions about the process of filing a complaint.

When the board’s creation was first announced in April, a full list of members was also laid out by city officials. A five-member board, the body 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 or Woodfin’s office have responded to questions regarding Vance’s position on the board.

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