Mayor’s Minute July – Community Engagement and Policing Initiative
June 24, 2020
I am a firm believer that God gives us two great gifts – the free will to make our own decisions and the ability to learn. Over the past few weeks, since the murder of George Floyd, I have been learning. I have come to realize there are experiences, emotions and pain that I will never truly understand. I have also learned that for all the progress we have made in Tuscaloosa, much more is required.
When our Chief of Police, Chief Blankley, interviewed for the position in February, he made it clear that one of his primary goals for the Tuscaloosa Police Department (TPD) was to establish meaningful relationships with the community we serve. Chief Blankley and I both feel strongly that engaging in our neighborhoods and with our community helps build lasting and meaningful relationships between the community and TPD that help keep Tuscaloosa safe, and vibrant.
The City of Tuscaloosa (City) and TPD believe it is time to further increase trust and accountability. Therefore, I have announced that a community policing proposal – the community engagement and policing initiative – will be presented to the City Council on August 11. Between now and the beginning of August, Chief Blankley, TPD officers and senior leadership, and I will meet with citizens, community leaders, educators, pastors, elected officials, and other stakeholders in Tuscaloosa. Additionally, the City will host a series of Virtual Town Hall meetings on the subject to increase ease of participation in these conversations. Our goal over the next two months is to listen, learn and act with purpose.
Something truly remarkable has happened in the past few weeks. The landscape has changed and people are listening. I think it also important to realize that this conversation extends beyond law enforcement. Police and Sheriff departments are too often placed in a position of treating the symptoms of greater problems caused by lack of educational, healthcare, housing and economic opportunities. The city cannot do this alone, but we can make a difference. Between Elevate Tuscaloosa’s educational investments, and a reinvigorated partnership between TPD and our community, we can strengthen trust and accountability while bridging the divides of racial, social and economic injustices.