BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (Patch.com) — Mayor Randall Woodfin and Sen. Doug Jones addressed systemic racism and police reform in a joint news conference Friday, and clarified what the calls for "defunding police" really mean.
Woodfin said the death of George Floyd in Minnesota exposed a nationwide issue in law enforcement and government that requires action in how police serve and protect the community.
"The death of George Floyd has has awakened our conscience, it has awakened our hearts," Woodfin said. "This is a genuine growing pain for America right now. The growing pain is not George Floyd's death, it is the last three weeks, where people are crying out to get rid of the systemic racism we have seen throughout the country."
Jones said he agreed with Woodfin, adding that the cries to "defund" police is more about reforming.
"We need to remove the systemic racism in society and in law enforcement," Jones said. "It has gone on too long, and we have seen that it is a problem all over the country."
Jones and Woodfin stressed that neither of them have any interest in withholding funds from the police departments that serve the Birmingham metro.
"I want to remind people that in any city budget, 90 percent of funding is for actual personnel," Woodfin said. "I am not in any situation where I can or want to fire employees. If you're asking me to fire police when we already don't have enough, I am not going to. If you want to talk to me about reforming police tactics I would be happy to discuss this with you."
Woodfin announced Wednesday that Birmingham police practices will come under review in a new accountability method.
The city issued a survey earlier this week, and Woodfin said over the next 30 days, the city will conduct an internal review of the police department, consistent with the "8 Can't Wait" format.
"At the end of that 30 day period I will issue an executive order executing any gaps we find between what we do," Woodfin said. "We will determine a community safety task force that will do a 90-day deeper drive into all the Birmingham Police Department's rules and procedures."
Woodfin said will use an executive order at the end of the 90 days addressing any gaps between what officers are doing now and best practices.
"Every city has to figure out what they're going to pay for and what they're not and how they're going to police in a post-George Floyd world," Woodfin said. "Birmingham is no different and everything is on the table."
(Michael Seale, Patch.com)