HPD promotes new leaders as it grapples with controversy

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – The Huntsville Police Department expanded its command ranks Friday, adding three new deputy chiefs.

The three men were promoted from captain by Huntsville Police Chief Mark McMurray. They are Charles Brooks, the new Deputy Chief of Operations Bureau; Scott Hudson, now Deputy Chief of Administrative Bureau and Dewayne McCarver, the new Deputy Chief of Investigations Bureau.

The moves come during a period of controversy for the department, including a report critical of HPD’s handling of last summer’s non-violent protests in Huntsville, the murder conviction of HPD Officer William Darby last month and a citizen’s video recording of multiple officers wrestling with — and one officer stomping — a man at a gas station.

McMurray said today the promotions will help the department perform more efficiently and increase its accountability.

One major area of concern for the department is dealing with members of the community who have mental health issues.  

A number of the higher-profile HPD encounters in recent years have included someone battling mental health problems.

Jeffery Parker was shot by Officer Darby — after he had called 911 saying he planned to shoot himself. A jury deliberated for six hours before convicting Darby of murder in May.

An HPD shooting review board had cleared Darby of wrongdoing in May 2018, but he was indicted by a Madison County grand jury in August 2018.

McCarver, one of the newly promoted deputy chiefs, will oversee HPD’s investigation division and anti-drug unit — among other responsibilities. He testified for the defense at Darby’s trial. McCarver testified Darby’s actions in fatally shooting Parker were within HPD policy and consistent with his training.

Bradley Pugh was shot by police in November 2020. Pugh’s family said he was suffering from mental illness when he picked up a gun and climbed atop Ted’s Barbecue in Five Points, prompting an extended standoff and negotiations.

Pugh eventually climbed down, declined to drop his weapon, investigators said, and ran away from police. Pugh was shot by police shortly after. The Madison County District Attorney’s office found the deadly use of force was justified.

Pugh’s family has raised concerns about how HPD deals with people suffering from mental health problems.

The latest high-profile encounter involved Kemonate Hobbs, 22, who was shown on a bystander’s video being stomped by a police officer on May 30 at a Mapco station on University Drive. Police charged Hobbs with resisting arrest and interfering with government operations.  

His mother said a few days after the incident that he suffers from schizophrenia.

HPD announced last week one unidentified officer seen in the Hobbs video acted out of police policy and would face department discipline.

New Deputy Chief Charles Brooks is now in charge of all three HPD precincts. He said he understands the challenges officers face in dealing with people who are struggling.

“Mental health, unfortunately, is a big problem,” Brooks said following the command ceremony Friday. “I’m glad to say the Huntsville Police Department, we’re at the forefront of that movement. We have 65 officers that have taken the 16-hour course for CTI training, and we had 68 officers take the 40-hour class.

“So, again, Huntsville Police department, we see the need, and the value of it
and we’re trained to educate our officers and give them the training necessary to again, to address these issues with mental health. So, it’s important to us.”

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