Local activists ask U.S. Dept. of Justice to investigate Huntsville Police

Huntsville

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) received a letter from Madison County-area activists asking for a probe into the Huntsville Police Department (HPD).

The Rosa Parks Day Committee of Huntsville Madison County (RPC) formally asked the DOJ to look into recent incidents involving Huntsville Police that they describe as “multiple incidents of excessive force, unconstitutional policing, and other civil rights violations.”

In the letter to the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, the RPC says their request for the probe focuses on “on the response tactics and policies of HPD when deploying to (1) citizens experiencing mental health crises, (2) lawful assemblies and protests, and (3) discriminatory policing of minority populations.  The scope includes specific events occurring in Huntsville, Alabama on April 3, 2018; June 1 and 3, 2020; as well as police practices which continue to the present day.”

The letter mentions the murder of Jeff Parker by HPD officer William Darby, who was convicted by a jury.

Mayor Tommy Battle and HPD Police Chief Mark McMurray continue to state their belief that the jury was wrong in their guilty verdict, and Mr. Darby remains employed by the City of Huntsville. Mayor Tommy Battle and HPD Police Chief Mark McMurray continue to state their belief that the jury was wrong in their guilty verdict, and Mr. Darby remains employed by the City of Huntsville.” 

Also mentioned are the series of protests in downtown Huntsville in June 2020, when police used riot dispersal tactics to clear the streets.

“In some cases, serious physical harm was inflicted by the police. We believe, despite a months-long investigation by the Huntsville Police Citizens Advisory Council (HPCAC), a DOJ investigation is warranted.”

The letter also asks the DOJ to look into the “over-policing and/or discriminatory policing of local minority populations.”

The Rosa Parks Day Committee released this statement regarding the request to DOJ

One year ago, concerned citizens engaged in peaceful protest in downtown Huntsville to display their concerns about the murder of George Floyd and the policing of Black people and other People of Color. The unfortunate treatment of some of the protestors by police officers and other law enforcement agents ignited a local movement that raised concerns and questions about some of the tactics and protocols used by the Huntsville Police Department (HPD).

Since those initial concerns were raised, other incidents have occurred – including the very recent stomping of Kemontae Hobbs by a HPD officer. Because Hobbs has been identified by his mother as having a mental disability, the use of force by the officer is particularly disturbing.

In light of these and other incidents, the Rosa Parks Committee of Huntsville has followed through with its pledge to make a formal request for the Department of Justice to investigate the HPD. Our concerns include the policing of citizens experiencing mental health crises, those engaged in lawful assemblies and protests, and those who are racial minorities. A copy of the letter accompanies this statement.

Following Mayor Tommy Battle and Police Chief Mark McMurray’s statements following the Darby verdict, the RPC called for the resignations or removals of both the chief and mayor.

Read the full letter to the DOJ below:

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