GADSDEN, Ala. (WBRC) - Representatives of the Black Lives Matter group received a warm welcome Tuesday from the Gadsden City Council.
Two women representing the group presented a list of demands to the council at their regular meeting.
It comes in the wake of the death of George Floyd who died after a Minneapolis cop kept his knee on Floyd's neck for more than eight minutes.
Black Lives Matter Gadsden has held two protests in Gadsden that occasionally brought on heated exchanges, but no violence.
At Tuesday’s meeting, the council heard from BLM Gadsden member Savannah Miles who reflected on growing up hearing family and teachers tell her to avoid hanging out with black people because it would ruin her reputation.
She said she moved away to college, only to find out that outsiders viewed the South with "ugliness."
"That taught me that no person or party is coming back to save our community, that we're going to have to make that change for ourselves," Miles told the council.
"We have an opportunity to make our community tangibly safer, right here, right now," she added.
Council members Deverick Williams and Kent Back say they and other council members have already been discussing some of the demands and whether they might be implemented.
"I think that is awesome. At this point in time, I think it's time that we all get on the same page, and in fact, it made me proud, that they have already been discussing our demands, and already discussing these things before even received our demands," said Sunbrica Dozier.
Dozier handed out their demands, which she referred to as "Calls to Action," to council members. They include:
- Requiring officers to de-escalate situations, where possible, by communicating with subjects, maintaining distance, and otherwise eliminating the need to use force.
- Banning officers from choking or strangling civilians, where less lethal force could be used instead, avoiding the unnecessary death or serious injury of civilians.
- Mandating officers to intervene and stop excessive force used by other officers and report these incidents immediately to a supervisor.
- Restricting officers from shooting at moving vehicles, which is regarded as a particularly dangerous and ineffective tactic.
- Developing a Force Continuum that limits the types of force and/or weapons that can be used to respond to specific types of resistance.
- Requiring officers to exhaust all other reasonable means before resorting to deadly force. Mandating officers to give a verbal warning, when possible, before shooting at a civilian.
- Requiring officers to report each time they use force or threaten to use force against civilians
The demands, also presented to the Etowah County Commission and to Sheriff Jonathon Horton, go on to say:
- Require officers to have mandatory quarterly therapy sessions to check in on officers’ mental health and mandatory recovery therapy sessions every time they have some potential PTSD triggering event. Too often mental health maintenance is viewed as a weakness in the line of duty and this has led to many preventable acts of violence on behalf of law enforcement.
- Require potential law enforcement officers to undergo multiple personality inventory tests including but not limited to Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) testing, to better assess any personality traits that could interfere with them properly fulfilling their duties.
- Create an independent review board consisting of elected officials and community members, separate from law enforcement personnel, to investigate complaints of misconduct against police officers presented by civilians. We understand that this will need to be approved in a federal court and as your constituents we ask you take that action for and with us.
- Ensure your constituents’ demands are responded to in a timely manner and met by all parties in this letter.
- Immediately terminate the intergovernmental contract with I.C.E. and close Etowah County Detention Center. The detention system is far too broken to be fixed and Etowah County Detention Center is a stain on the reputation of the Gadsden community.
- Criminalize the civilian use of police calls to file false claims with the intention of weaponizing police officers’ force to be used on other civilians, especially when this act is used in the systematic targeting of black people and people of color. No longer leaving it up to the officer’s discretion on whether to report this offence and press charges.
- Ensure your constituents demands are responded to in a timely manner and met by all parties in this letter.