BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Two-and-a-half years after its creation, the Birmingham Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC) held its first meeting Thursday afternoon.
Some people in the community are frustrated by this long delay and are calling for even more accountability from the city and police. Some people in the community are also upset with the PSAC, saying they feel like the committee is made up of people wanting power and not people directly off the street.
“I raised the question about who is this for because I want the city to lead with genuine intent of putting the people first,” said Eric Hall, co-founder of the Birmingham chapter of Black Lives Matter.
The committee is made up of five volunteers, each bringing a different perspective to public safety. The PSAC chairperson is T. Marie King, an activist and speaker in the community.
The Rev. Lawrence Conoway from Fellowship Bible Church was elected vice chair during Thursday’s meeting. The other members of the committee include former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, former Birmingham Police Chief Annetta Nunn and criminal justice attorney Victor Revill.
“Our goal is to have a really level playing field for all and for different perspectives, so all of our members really fall in line with all of the criteria that we set for the members,” said Uche Bean, deputy director of the city’s division of social justice and racial equity.
The city said these five people fit criteria set by an executive order, and the goal is to bridge the gap and build trust between the community and police department.
“Really, the goal is to see how we can allow communities to be able to have a second apparatus or a second look at what they felt were negative interactions or even positive interactions with the police department,” Bean said. “Of course, you have internal affairs, right? But there’s also a second opportunity for community to have a civilian-led group that can also make those determinations on their interactions with police.”
The PSAC first came together in April 2021, but the first meeting was over two years later. The city said there were legalities and organizational elements that had to be ironed out before the committee could take action, including finding an investigator and mediator.
“I think that we are all working towards a positive endpoint, and I think that’s where we are now,” Bean said. “So can’t really speak to the past, but I can definitely speak to the future, and we are moving in the right direction.”
The first meeting was only around 10 minutes long with no input from the community. This frustrated some community members and raised question about how the committee can be for the community if the meetings happen in the middle of the workday.
“Citizens are the ones that’s more impacted as it relates to you know, public safety and policing and so forth, and they deserve to have a voice at these meetings,” Hall said. “We don’t need to be meeting just to be meeting, but we need some results in the city. We need some true reform to the policies and the practices of Birmingham police.”
The PSAC voted to hold meetings at city hall every third Thursday at 5 p.m. The public is welcome to attend.