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Huntsville City Councilman calls for community discussion after police mistake him for a robbery suspect

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Huntsville City Councilman Devyn Keith posted a Facebook message on Tuesday night saying he'd had an encounter with the Huntsville Police Department.

Keith said the encounter, where police apparently briefly questioned him as a potential robbery suspect based on his race and clothing, was resolved with "civility between myself and the officers on duty." But, he added, it also "sheds light on an issue that happens far too often in familiar neighborhoods."

Keith, 29, was elected to the Huntsville City Council District 1 seat  in October, upsetting longtime incumbent Richard Showers.

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle confirmed the account to WHNT News 19.

"This is one of those that involves public trust," Battle said. "You have to make sure the public trusts your police, trusts your elected officials to do the right thing. And this is one of those cases where I think everybody did do the right thing."

Battle said the encounter happened after Keith, who had recently moved into the Terry Heights neighborhood, was notified by a neighbor there were police in the area. Police had been responding to a robbery call, Mayor Battle said.

The description of the alleged robber wasn't very specific, it said, "black male, wearing a hoodie and blue jeans."

Battle said that's how Keith was dressed Monday afternoon when he encountered a Huntsville Police Department officer in front of his home.

Keith was briefly questioned and searched. Battle said Keith didn't tell the officer he was a city councilman. He provided his name and the encounter ended shortly after that.

A press release from the city of Huntsville said, "Both the Huntsville Police Department and Mr. Keith acted appropriately and served as a great community model for citizen and police interaction."

Councilman Keith is working with city administration and Huntsville Police to continue conversations regarding community policing and ways the city can improve good police work, the city said.

“I look forward to continued, open, intentional dialogue on our community policing procedures and how we can work to keep our community safe,” Keith said. “District One will see these conversations carried out publicly and in a way that leads to real solutions for our community.”