HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — As the Huntsville City Council prepares to hold a work session Tuesday to discuss the findings of a 250-page report on law enforcement conduct during the June protests last year, social justice organizations are sharing their thoughts on the findings.
The Huntsville-based group Citizens Coalition for Justice Reform held a press conference outside city hall Monday. The organization says they want to work with the city council and other community leaders to help improve policing, not just for residents, but also for officers. While the group continues to review the extensive report, one member says portions of it were disheartening.
“Our goal is to establish authentic, community-based policing,” said Chris Harris, CCJR leader.
Familiar signs were held outside City Hall Monday from an all-too-familiar conversation: the relationship between police and the community.
Last summer CS gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets and bean bag rounds were used on protesters. Last week, the Huntsville Police Citizen Advisory Council released their findings.
“It’s disheartening. Very disheartening,” Harris said. “Involved law enforcement agencies failed to participate in this ten-month review. The review points to this fact.”
The report’s authors, two attorneys hired and empowered by City Council, say they were only allowed to interview Chief Mark McMurray and not other officers.
The report also states the Madison County Sheriff’s Office, Madison Police Department, and the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency all declined open records requests from the attorneys to shed light on their involvement.
“The review also points to several circumstances where several officers sworn to protect and serve did not follow policy,” Harris said.
Chief McMurray will be at the work session Tuesday evening where City Council members will discuss recommendations for the police department.
“Hoping he’s going to come with an open mind and be willing to work on solutions that are fundamentally best for the entire Huntsville city area,” Harris stated.
CCJR leaders say they are hoping for change.
“We expect them to take as long as it took them to give legal counsel time to investigate the protest, we expect them to take just as long to really craft reform for the area,” said Claudia Mesnil, CCJR leader.
Monday, CCJR also announced the kick-off of a social media and add campaign called “Make It Stop”. The group says it will raise awareness about police violence in Huntsville and North Alabama.