Birmingham Police Department
The Birmingham Police Department is the department responsible for law enforcement, security and crime prevention in the city of Birmingham. The chief of police is A. C. Roper. The department is headquartered at the Birmingham Police Department Central Headquarters at 1701 1st Avenue North.
In his 2008 State of the City address Mayor Larry Langford pledged to put 50 additional officers on the streets. Since taking office he has also supported pay raises for officers and gotten City Council approval for technology purchases -- specifically for 3-wheel personal vehicles and for surveillance cameras in high-crime areas.
As of 2008, the Birmingham Police Department had 789 sworn officers (653 male and 136 female) and 296 civilian staff (75 male and 221 female). The department is divided into several divisions, each headed by a deputy chief:
The Administrative division, headed by Ray Tubbs handles internal operations and oversees the department's Technology Unit.
The Detectives Bureau, led by Herman Hinton investigates crimes and prepares cases for prosecution. The division is divided into units specializing in auto theft, burglary, white-collar crime, family services (juvenile misdemeanors, missing persons, animal cruelty and gang activity), robbery, and homicide (homicide, felony assault, attempted murder, police-involved shootings, felony firearms discharge and kidnapping). Detectives also participate in "Project ICE", a multi-departmental task force which investigates federal firearms violations.
The department is the only one in the state to operate its own firearms examiners unit which matches ballistic evidence against a national database of firearms signatures. A "Crime Reduction Team", a task force of specially-picked officers, assists the detectives bureau in tracking fugitives and suppressing crime in especially violent neighborhoods.
The Patrol Division oversees regular patrols conducted out of Birmingham's four precincts. Mike Fisher headed the division as Deputy Chief until his retirement in August 2010. The City Council and Police Chief Roper announced in 2009 plans to build a new West Precinct behind the Five Points West Municipal Center.
The department's tactical division is comprised of the city's highway patrol, mounted patrol, motor scouts, canine unit and bomb unit.
A separate division of the department investigates drug and vice activity. The unit is comprised of specialized teams which specialize in highway interdiction, drug houses, and long-term investigations into drug operations. The vice team investigates illegal alcohol and tobacco sales, gambling, prostitution, counterfeit merchandise, business license violations and complaints involving bars and clubs.
Officers in the narcotics unit participate in several federal task forces, including the Weed and Seed Task Force, which focuses on restoring neighborhoods through targeted enforcement and community participation.
In 1951 Birmingham City Commissioner Bull Connor's wife Beara witnessed an act which she considered to be brutality. Connor investigated and charged Detective Henry Darnell with conduct unbecoming an officer.
The actions of Birmingham Police under the command of Connor opposing the 1960's Civil Rights Movement made international news. It was widely reported that the department was protecting violent segregationists while oppressing black citizens. Television broadcasts of young marchers being attacked by police dogs and fire hoses galvanized sympathy for the movement on the national stage.
The January 2008 beating of an unconscious suspect after a high-speed chase led to the firing of five officers after commanders were notified more than a year later.
- Robinson, Carol (September 8, 2007) "Local firearms unit proves its mettle in solving gun crimes." Birmingham News
- Robinson, Carol (February 9, 2008) "Police Chief Roper names top commanders, unveils plan for improving the Birmingham department." Birmingham News
- Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center Crime in Alabama 2008
- Robinson, Carol (May 14, 2009) "Birmingham special police unit stalks criminals, trouble spots." Birmingham News
- Robinson, Carol (May 20, 2009) "Birmingham police beating video: Five officers fired." Birmingham News