HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Thursday the Huntsville Police Citizens Advisory Council released their review of police conduct during the protests in downtown Huntsville from May 30th to June 5th.
The events under review include the June 3rd protest over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis when Huntsville Police, Madison County Deputies and Troopers with the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency used several riot control methods including firing tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd.
After months of going over Huntsville Police Chief Mark McMurray’s After Action Report, going through over 300 hours of video and holding public comment sessions, the ten-member Huntsville Police Citizens Advisory Council presented their findings to the city council members, Mayor Tommy Battle and the public.
The report covered concerns from witnesses including inappropriate tactics and unlawful use of force against people exercising their First Amendment rights and some officers’ use of sniper rifle scopes on the rooftops.
The snipers on the roof were with the Madison County Sheriff’s Office and Madison Police Department. There were no HPD officers on the roof. A number of witnesses talked about how uncomfortable being looked at through the scope was.
HCPAC found they should have used binoculars to look at people, not their scope on the rifle. They found this was not authorized by Chief McMurray.
Multiple law enforcement agencies were all there to work collaboratively, but the approach to crowd control and crowd dispersal was different among the different agencies.
HPCAC says their findings were that Madison County deputies did use rubberized rounds. One former HPD officer stated on his body camera that he had used five rubber bullet rounds. This is against HPD Chief McMurray’s policy and HPCAC found there is no proof that he authorized that.
HPD officers used bean bag rounds. HPCAC did not answer conclusively as to whether or not the use of bean bag rounds was appropriate. HPD Policy states that officers are not to hit anyone in the face with that type of ammunition, but body camera captured one HPD officer stating they had hit someone in the face.
HPCAC found that HPD has an internal communication issue. The broad issue is poor communication and clear direction.
In the hours of body camera footage that were reviewed, some officers were overheard to say, “We weren’t trained for this.”
The number one recommendation from HPCAC is that the unrest associated with this issue is not going away, it is here with us. The department needs better training and have officers know how to better handle protests.
They recommend a Memorandum of Understanding to clarify who is in control and what types of methods will be used to handle crowd control.
An independent attorney was hired to help the council in their review to ensure the report is free of bias. Activist Remus Bowden says several community groups are hoping the review is followed with change.
It’s important to note, the Huntsville Police Citizens Advisory Council was created in 2010, to improve the relationship between HPD and the community.