When Mobile police set up a safety check point in the Village Green community off Azalea Road nearly two weeks ago, there wasn’t any opposition from city leaders.
When they announced their return on Wednesday, City Council member Fred Richardson had a few concerns.
“I don’t have anything against random checkpoints, but that’s not random when you keep going back to the same place. You have selected that place for whatever reason. I don’t favor that,” Richardson said, fearing that multiple check points in the same location can intimidate residents who aren’t part of the problem. “That’s not corrective action. That’s intimidating and harassing our citizens.”
Police Chief James Barber said they labeled the area as a crime “hot spot” after they responded to more than 550 crimes since the beginning of 2015 and 6 shootings in the last month.
“As Chief of police, my fundamental role is the safety of the community. Whenever you consider the safety of the community has to come first, I will not make excuses or apologies for doing exactly that,” Barber defended.
Richardson said his office has received complaints from people questioning the lack of diversity when it comes to selecting locations for police checkpoints. That’s why he wanted to request of list of locations dating back at least 6 months.
“I did the same thing under Mayor Sam Jones, and we discovered that we had targeted the same community. When they spread it out further, they made far more arrests in the well-to-do neighborhoods than they did in the low-income communities because those people have been able to ride police-free for years coming and going as they please while the police were set up over here [ in low-income areas].”
Chief Barber’s list of locations would be significantly short because he said the check points at Village Green are the first he’s conducted since taking office.
His mindset is that random checkpoints put an inconvenience on the public that outweighs the benefits police can obtain from them.
“When there’s a very specific and strategic area we’re trying to identify then I find it[checkpoints] very appropriate,” Barber said defending their decision to return to the same location despite allegations that it isolates a particular demographic. “We’ve been announcing that we’re doing this, why we’re doing it, and everything else. Any inference that it’s motivated by any other reason is absurd.”
Barber said the checkpoints are only a small piece of the operation they’re conducting to curb crime in the area and since they performed the first check point, they’ve seen virtually no serious crimes.
Council member Bess Rich said, “I trust the MPD to do as they see fit to keep our community safe. I will not second guess where our MPD need place their resources.”
Mayor Stimpson was out of the office, but spokesperson Laura Byrne said the Mayor doesn’t want to take anything off the table when it comes to safety and that includes checkpoints. During his campaign, he said he didn’t think random checkpoints were very effective. but Byrne said he supports the ones at Village Green because they were targeted for a specific purpose.