Birmingham mayor forms Civilian Review Board for public trust, police accountability
Last Monday, the City of Birmingham announced the formation of its first ever Civilian Review Board. In a televised press conference, Mayor Randall Woodfin shared details about the 5-member panel and the future of citizen and police relations in Alabama's most populous city.
In the aftermath of the numerous high profile murders of Black citizens by police officers, mayors across the country are reckoning with the financial and emotional costs of police brutality and
misconduct for cities and their residents. Birmingham's Civilian Review Board is an outgrowth of the city's Public Safety Task Force. Last May, the task force was launched to evaluate how well Birmingham's police department performed against the standards and best practices set forth in the "8 Can't Wait" public safety framework. With the establishment of the Civilian Review Board, citizens gain an independent avenue to report police misconduct and voice their opinions on issues of public safety.
According to the text of Woodfin's executive order, the Civilian Review Board's purpose is to:
provide transparency to the public about police operations
provide the mayor with an independent assessment of police operations
create a space for accountability of the City and the police department for its operations in support of public safety
review community complaints of alleged officer misconduct as an independent, civilian-led review board of the Birmingham Police Department
In his press conference remarks, Woodfin vowed to improve police-community relations and invoked the memory of a 42-year old case of police brutality involving a BPD officer who murdered an unarmed Black woman while investigating an altercation at a convenience store.
"This announcement is a result of the collaborative work of our Public Safety Task Force and broader efforts to safeguard residents and officers’ safety, however, the work of establishing an independent, and community led, platform for police transparency began for many residents in 1979, when Bonita Carter was killed as a result of reckless police action. Today, represents a major step in the effort to raise residents’ trust and oversight to police operations," explained Woodfin.
Nationwide, cities and states are considering and implementing measures toward police reform. The city of Houston is evaluating policy measures to limit pre-textual traffic stops in response to the disproportionate harassment of Black and brown motorists by police. Officials in Berkeley, California are considering relieving police officers of traffic duties altogether.
Brandon Johnson, director of Birmingham's Office of Peace and Policy, called the executive order the first of its kind in the state. “We’re literally pioneering in the state of Alabama,’' Johnson said.
Below, we have re-published the announcement press release in full with permission
Birmingham, Alabama – In an ongoing effort to improve trust between the Birmingham Police Department and residents, Mayor Randall Woodfin announced today the formation of Birmingham’s first Civilian Review Board.
The Mayor’s actions are a direct response to the recommendations from the City of Birmingham’s Public Safety Task Force and national calls for reimagining public safety.
“This announcement is a result of the collaborative work of our Public Safety Task Force and broader efforts to safeguard residents and officers’ safety,” said Mayor Woodfin.
“However, the work of establishing an independent, and community led, platform for police transparency began for many residents in 1979, when Bonita Carter was killed as a result of reckless police action. Today represents a major step in the effort to raise residents’ trust and oversight to police operations,” said Woodfin.
The Civilian Review Board has been thoughtfully structured – providing representation that cuts across a variety of influences in Birmingham.
“Our Civilian Review Board will provide authentic community voice, involvement and engagement. It is a platform for moms, pastors, community activists and professional minds to assemble to work to promote the best Birmingham has to offer from a law enforcement prospective,” said Woodfin.
Background: The Civilian Review Board
To improve relationships between the community-at-large and the BPD, this executive order establishes a Civilian Review Board for the primary purpose of providing transparency and an independent assessment on police operations, create space for accountability of the City and the police department for its operations, and review community complaints of alleged officer misconduct.
“As my administration continues to implement recommendations from the Public Safety Task Force, these executive orders will build on our model use of force standards,” Woodfin said.
Public safety is the top concern for Birmingham residents. Thanks to smart investments in our public safety infrastructure, the Woodfin administration has made progress by successfully reducing violent crime in Birmingham by 33 percent since 2017.
Members of the Civilian Review Board
Rev. Lawrence Conoway – pastor, Fellowship Bible Church
T. Marie King – activist, speaker, trainer/facilitator
Annetta Nunn, YWCA domestic violence court advocate; former chief, Birmingham Police Department
Victor Revill – criminal justice attorney, Public Safety Task Force member
Joyce White Vance – former U.S Attorney, Northern District of Alabama; Public Safety Task Force member