A row of Mobile Police officers lined the back wall and the crowd of people who showed up for Tuesday’s city council meeting to talk about creating a citizen advisory committee spilled out into the hallway once every seat was taken.
It was a meeting that at times was livelier than most as several speakers took their 5-minute turns behind the podium to try to convince the council whether or not forming a committee would be a good idea, even though Council President Gina Gregory announced early on that they would not be voting on it anytime soon.
State Senator Vivian Figures, a member of the Leaders for Truth and Justice, was one of the speakers at the meeting and said she was pleased to hear the council wasn’t going to rush a decision.
“This particular ordinance as introduced needs a lot of work. We need to also make sure our youth are involved in this council to hear from them and their ideas,” Figures said. “We do have a problem with the trust factor between the community and the police department and the first step is to admit we have a problem.”
Mayor Sandy Stimpson and Councilmember Fred Richardson were out of town for the London Air Show, but prior to Tuesday’s meeting, Stimpson posted on Facebook his disapproval for creating any kind of police-citizen advisory board, pointing out the fact MPD has a citizen police panel already that’s been in place for nearly two years.
Councilmember CJ Small said this was the first time he’d ever heard of this already existing panel. “Thursday was the first I heard of it, and I still have some questions about it,” Small said. “If[ the proposed committee] would not tell the council how to vote on things, but it would give the people a voice. I still do not know why the mayor put out his statement if his goal is to have ‘One Mobile.'”
If there was one thing all the council members could agree on, it’s that forming a committee doesn’t need to be a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction to recent events. Gregory said currently city staffers are calling other cities with citizen committees to see how they operate and to get ideas.
There are a lot of lingering questions about the proposed committee like how many people would serve on it, who would be selected and how, but those will hopefully be addressed in a public meeting that will be scheduled sometime before the proposal reappears on the city council agenda on August 9th.