Bill for MPD misconduct investigations called 'unnecessary' - Montgomery Alabama news.

Bill for MPD misconduct investigations called 'unnecessary'

(Source: WSFA 12 News) (Source: WSFA 12 News)
(Source: WSFA 12 News) (Source: WSFA 12 News)
(Source: WSFA 12 News) (Source: WSFA 12 News)
(Source: WSFA 12 News) (Source: WSFA 12 News)
(Source: WSFA 12 News) (Source: WSFA 12 News)

Probes into police shootings and brutality are the focus of a new bill state lawmakers are pushing in Montgomery. A public debate was held Tuesday on a new law that would establish investigation and compensation procedures for victims of police misconduct.

It comes as many in Montgomery continue to follow the murder case of a white police officer charged with fatally shooting a black man last year. The shooting death of Gregory Gunn continues to make waves, drawing some debate over the city's investigative methods.

A grand jury indicted Officer Aaron Cody Smith last November for murder in Gunn’s death. Smith’s attorney says the officer acted in self-defense. His lawyers have argued for moving the proceedings out of Montgomery, saying that scrutiny of the case will prevent the rookie officer from getting a fair trial. Two judges have already recused themselves from the case.

Tuesday afternoon, the Montgomery County House delegation approved House Bill 247 that would require the Montgomery city council to establish procedures for the investigation of a police shooting, police brutality or other police misconduct. Rep. John Knight, D-Montgomery, is the sponsor of the legislation.

“What's wrong with adopting procedures so that everybody would know what the procedures are?” Knight asked during the hearing. “That's the main thing that we're trying to accomplish. Even if I'm a police officer and I was involved in a shooting, what would be the procedures for Montgomery in terms of how that shooting would be investigated? I think you ought to have procedures in place… so that the police officers would know and the general public would know as well.”

But Montgomery already has procedures in place. Chief of Staff Anita Archie showed us more than 82 pages of policies for city investigations for any allegations of wrongdoing.

“We have had in place since September of 2010 procedures in place for any citizen to have any complaint against any employee in any department to file an investigation with City Investigations. No one has ever asked us for a copy of those policies and procedures. We have them right here. They're not just for dealing with allegations of police misconduct. It's about any type of complaint that anyone can file,” Archie said.

Kim Fehl, Montgomery’s city attorney, asked the delegation to reconsider the bill, saying it conflicts with current process that says claims should be filed within six months of the time the act occurs, makes them harder to investigate.

The citizens will be paying for claim investigations that would otherwise be barred by the statute of limitations, she added, making it costly for taxpayers

City officials say there’s nothing preventing claims from being filed right now against the city. The Office of City Investigations investigates any complaint against any employee, working as a separate body from any other city department.

Montgomery leaders told the delegation they’d be happy to publish the 82 pages of investigative procedures on their website.

“It will cost us a tremendous amount of wasted taxpayer dollars to defend claims that the statute of limitations has run out on and chase down rabbits in rabbit holes. It will be a tremendous cost burden to the citizens of Montgomery. We already have something in place. It's already there,” Archie said.

House Bill 247 also provides compensation for the victim or their family members resulting from a police shooting or police misconduct.

“If I'm a citizen and my brother or father is killed by accident or by misconduct of a police officer, there would be some way that the heirs of that estate could be compensated," Knight said. "All it does is allow the city and the mayor to be able to make that determination. It didn't mandate compensation. It allowed them to be able to do that.”

The bill, which passed on a voice vote, goes to the House floor next. If it passes, it then goes on to the Senate.

“I think it's fair for the police officers. I think it's fair for the general public out there to know exactly what the procedures are. Many things are taking place across this country now and the more people are informed about what the procedures and the policies are, the less friction you would have because people would know exactly what's going to happen when something takes place,” Knight added.

“We do not see where the bill is necessary," Archie countered. "We feel that it will open us up and expose us to additional claims. It goes against the statute of limitations. We can only assume that this is politics at its worst.” 

The delegation also discussed a bill to get rid of Montgomery's red light cameras.

But after a split vote, the legislation that would do away with the cameras did not advance out of committee.

Police say the cameras have helped reduce crashes, improving safety.

Lt. Stanley Rucker told the delegation that the recidivism rate is down 22%. Those who receive citations don't receive a second violation because they’re more willing to stop and slow down while approaching intersections.

From 2010-2016, collisions in intersections have been reduced by 22%, according to MPD.

In 2008, 274 accidents were recorded at 13 intersections with red light cameras.

As of 2016, there were 238 accidents recorded at 20 intersections with red light cameras (seven more cameras have been added to other intersections since 2008)

Lt. Rucker says there’s a reduction in crashes, despite an increase in traffic in certain parts of the city, which the city attributes to the red light cameras.

The $60 ticket issued for red light camera violations is less than the $150 one for similar violations spotted by police officers. Proceeds are split with a private company. Money the city receives goes into the general fund budget.

Republicans on the committee supported the cameras, saying they’re effective in saving lives and help with officer shortages. 

Democrats said they've gotten lots of complaints from citizens about the technology.

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