By Ariel Worthy
The Birmingham Times
Jefferson County Commissioners Sandra Little Brown and David Carrington said Tuesday they plan to meet with Homewood’s mayor to discuss a video showing a handcuffed black woman in a Walmart on Lakeshore Parkway.
The video posted on Facebook has led to protests.
Brown said she was troubled by what she saw.
“The video was very disturbing to me to see a citizen being handled like she was, for no just cause,” Brown said. “The issue needs to be addressed by the Homewood Police Department and corrected, whether it be sensitivity training, or some other form of training as to how to handle situations like this.”
Homewood police have apologized for the incident and said Tuesday that Internal affairs investigators found that the officer involved acted in good faith to investigate the theft and “did not violate state law or any departmental policy,” according to WBRC Fox 6 TV.
Brenda Rivers, 59, who is black, was told by Homewood Police officers that she fit the description of a robbery suspect, and according to the video, after refusing permission to search her purse officers detained Rivers for over 30 minutes.
Local activist Carlos Chaverst, a member of National Action Network Birmingham (NANB) said he agrees with Brown that there needs to be more training for police.
“The city is 75 percent white, but blacks make up 95 percent of their jail system. That’s a huge problem. When you look at that and what happened to Ms. Rivers, it shows that there obviously must be more training within the force itself,” Chaverst said. “Officers are sworn to protect and serve us; anything outside of that isn’t in the description of an officer. That’s what we don’t see. We see them profiling people of color.”
Frank Matthews, president of the Outcast Voters League, has vowed to stand outside of the Homewood Police Department until the officer who accused Rivers is fired.
“I will be out there until he is fired. If it’s going to be a marathon, fine, but I’m not leaving until he’s gone,” Matthews said.
Hezekiah Jackson, president of the Metro Birmingham National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), said he supports NANB and Outcast Voters League in bringing attention to “yet another incident where law enforcement chooses to overreach, deny certain citizens dignity and go beyond the scope of probable or practical procedures, most especially when interacting with people of color.”
“This must stop, if we plan to maintain any level of civility or the distrust of law enforcement by communities of color is changed,” he said.
The victim of the alleged robbery was eventually called over to identify if Rivers was the suspect. “I’ve been telling them, it’s not her,” the victim said in the video.
The video continued with Rivers handcuffed and surrounded by officers for another 15 minutes before she was eventually let go without arrest or fine.
On Friday, HPD released a statement through police Lt. Eric Hampton, who said the department has issued an apology to Rivers and her family.
“We apologize to the Rivers family and the citizens and the shoppers for the interaction and negative contact she had with our department,” Hampton said.