Huntsville City Councilman Devyn Keith hosts community conversation

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Community policing took center stage Monday night in Huntsville. District 1 Councilman Devyn Keith laid out a proposal that he believes will reduce crime and build connections between citizens and police. It's a tough balancing act. Even Huntsville Police Chief Mark McMurray admitted that. WHNT NEWS 19 Taking Action to do our part to bring this community conversation to the forefront. Watch the full discussion here:

"I have a young son that I don't want outside much because I don't know when somebody's going to come through shooting," shares Perrion Roberts.

Roberts' story is just one of the many people living in northwest Huntsville shared with their neighbors, elected leaders and police officers in the auditorium at the Academy for Academics and Arts. It's also where Keith detailed his S.M.A.R.T. Proposal - Specific. Measurable. Accountability. Recruiting. Technology Centered. It's also where Keith detailed his S.M.A.R.T. Proposal which is listed by category below:

Specific

  1. Identify communities that have the highest percentage of police interaction (per data).
  2. Identify police officers that have noticeable record discrepancies (large amount of IA-confirmed, legitimate complaints) as well as those who have demonstrated high levels of social/cultural proficiency.

Measurable

  1. Assessing the amount of manpower needed to make a meaningful impact on crime, increase overall safety and create tangible community connections. I believe Huntsville needs an increase in its immediate patrol officer size in order to increase community connections.
  2. Setting a rubric with a specific number of community events, interactive hours and sponsored youth events/teams. We want direct involvement with the selected community.

Accountability

  1. This would, first, call for citizens to join their local neighborhood watch organizations.
  2. There would be a monthly follow up report of confirmed complaints and the results of those complaints.
  3. Public reports given by the Huntsville Police Citizens Advisory Council to include mid-year and end of the year reports given to the city council.

Recruiting

  1. This program would propose the hiring of a recruitment director. (focus would be on increasing diversity among the applicant pool)
  2. Increase the pay grade to a competitive number in the market of police departments within a 200-mile radius.
  3. Create an educational incentive for vested officers. (comparable to time it)
  4. Have culturally-based training outside of the classroom. A program that introduces cadets to communities before they have a badge or have training on a ride along.

Technology Centered

  1. Generating public statistical database so that the community can access real-time crime statistics and the police department can gauge their policy impact. This would involved the purchase of a Comp Stats Software and an IT position to manage the incoming data.
  2. CCTV (Mobile) The Urban Institute for Justice Policy found that CCTV in city and town centers are highly effective if they are targeted on property crimes, targeted at specific places such as high-crime areas (as part of an effort to increase camera coverage), combined with other surveillance measures.

"It's new," describes Keith. "It's never been done before, but this is the first step in my opinion of aggressively attacking two issues - connections between citizens and cops and overall deterring crime."

After going over the specifics, Keith opened up the discussion allowing the audience to weigh in and picking up the public backing of fellow Huntsville city councilman and retired Huntsville police officer Will Culver.

"You certainly have my support in that so that means we're only one other vote away," said Culver to the crowd.

"I love the idea he had about having police come and stay in the neighborhoods," says Huntsville native Tyler Burns. "I would enjoy being able to look out my window and see a police officer playing basketball with the neighborhood kids."

Despite the known challenges of cost and getting others on board, Keith is hopeful.

"I'm excited for Huntsville to be an example to the rest of the state," says Keith.