MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - A lot of folks are talking about the Montgomery Police Department's roadblocks where officer check driver's licenses and proof of insurance. The city says the checkpoints have cut down on crime, but some residents complain they're not being conducted fairly.
Checkpoints are not new in Montgomery, or any other city, as state troopers have them all the time to check for seat belt violators. MPD uses them for license, registration and insurance checks, but there are now more checkpoints than ever before. "We can demonstrate that crime, in its totality, is down over 24 percent," said Mayor Todd Strange.
Not everybody is happy about the roadblocks though, and they were present at the latest Montgomery city council meeting to show their displeasure. Black, Westside residents showed up at the meeting with t-shirts and hats in hand to protest. The garments were imprinted with an ominous-looking cartoon police officer holding a club and a stop sign.
The protestors say the Westside is being targeted. "As of right now this is harassment, I'm telling you," said resident Willie Knight. "It's not just me a lot of folks got these shirts and these hats because they fell the same way."
"Perception about the roadblocks is it only happens to black people," explains Westside minister Ed Nettles who has been fighting crime in the city for years. He says the problem is in appearance. "I support the police department, and they have a job to do, and they're doing their job and it's not on them. It's on us to have what we need in place in order that we might get through the roadblock without any harassment," he said.
Mayor Strange says the checkpoints are conducted all over the city and it has nothing to do with discrimination. "Absolutely not. Absolutely not," Strange said. "When I go through in a three month period of time, whether it be a 6:00 o'clock at night or 10:00 o'clock at night, in two different areas in my neighborhood I have pulled up to the check point." Strange says one of those checkpoints happened after he was elected to mayor. "Not before I was sworn in but after elected, and they didn't have a clue who I was."
And there are even some residents of the westside who don't have a problem with the check points. "Yes, on Bowman I have been stopped," remembered Kennedy Arrington. "I thought they were just doing their job. I didn't feel nothing bad about it..."