WATCH: Mayor Woodfin announces new public safety task force, provides COVID-19 updates

Coronavirus

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — On Tuseday, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin provided updates on city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the city’s new Birmingham Task Force for Public Safety.

Nearly 30 days ago, Woodfin announced his office would take a deeper look at public safety. This came at the heights of nationwide protests on police brutality following the death of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer in Minneapolis. During the review of the Birmingham Police Department’s policies and best practices, the city’s Office of Peace and Policy concluded that the Birmingham Police Department was in alignment with the standards of the “8 Can’t Wait,” which highlights eight issues on police reform. However, there is room for improvement with two standards they felt needed immediate attention.

THEY ARE:

  • Currently, BPD policy says that chokeholds are not authorized and are not part the department’s training curriculum. Mayor Woodfin wants to go a step further and implement an outright ban on chokeholds in the city.
  • Woodfin wants to add direct language to the department’s use of force policy to establish “duty to intervene” as a rule and regulation for BPD officers.

The remaining BPD policies meet the recommended “8 Can’t Wait” standards as is. A copy of Peace and Policy’s report on recommendations and review of 8 Can’t Wait can be found here or at www.peaceandpolicy.com.

“Although the city’s ‘8 Can’t Wait’ report proves Birmingham is headed in the right direction, we are charged with striving even further, which is why I’ve appointed a Birmingham Public Safety Task Force to examine additional areas of improvement,’’ Woodfin said. “Over the next 90 days, this task force will meet and review areas the City can improve as the areas relate to public safety. In the end, the task force will suggest a road map of where we can become stronger.’’   

Councilor Hunter Williams, who chairs of the city’s public safety committee, will serve as a co-chair on the task force with Woodfin.

Task force members are:

  • Jaselle Houghtlin – A recent UAB graduate and co-founder of the advocacy group, Listen  
  • Cara McClure, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Birmingham
  • Victor Revill, attorney with Revill Law Firm
  • Ed Watkins, former Birmingham police detective 
  • Joyce Vance, former U.S. Attorney of the Northern District of Alabama

In the coming weeks, forums will be held so the public may share their thoughts and opinions about public safety and learn more about issues. In the interim, if anyone would like to share their ideas, they should send them to peace@birminghamal.gov.

In other business, Woodfin also spoke about the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in Birmingham. He said that as students begin going back to school in August, he knows the Alabama Department of Public Health will provide the resources needed to keep students safe.

Woodfin said that when it comes to local businesses, masks and face coverings, business owners need to make sure that they are doing their due diligence in ensuring they are providing the proper safety measures to their patrons and recommending masks if they want to keep their businesses open. He also said he trusts that Alabama health officials will make the needed recommendations as it relates to businesses and schools as they continue to watch the levels of coronavirus cases in the state.

According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, there are 56,441 confirmed coronavirus cases across the state. Health experts say there have been 1,136 reported coronavirus-related deaths in Alabama as of Tuesday. Additionally, 7,123 people are currently being hospitalized and treated for the virus statewide. So far, 528,275 tests have been completed.

For more information visit the Alabama Department of Public Health website.


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