By Ariel Worthy
The Birmingham Times
Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin on Friday announced Orlando Wilson as interim police chief to replace A.C. Roper who retired officially on Friday.
Wilson is a recently retired police captain in the tactical unit for the Birmingham Police Department and is not a candidate for chief.
“We’ve got to do something,” Wilson said. “We just can’t be dismissive of crime and violent crime. We do know that that’s a mindset change, and we have to change some hearts.”
The search for a permanent police chief, however, is still underway, and Wilson is not a candidate for the position. Woodfin said the application process for permanent chief opened the first of February and will close March 1.
“So far, the candidates range from individuals within our department, throughout the state and throughout the country,’ he said. “Once the application process is complete, we will undergo an exhaustive assessment to determine the best person to lead our department. But while this search is underway, we can’t wait” to take steps to reduce crime, he said.
The mayor made a number of public safety announcements on Friday:
- Michael Richards will serve as deputy police of patrol. Richards served as the chief inspector and commander of the Gulf Coast regional Fugitive Task Force. Wilson and Richards have been asked to get more officers on the streets, Woodfin said.
- Operation Step Up which will look at strategies to fight crime and “take back our streets and send multiple city departments into our neighborhoods to spark change,” Woodfin said. As part of the initiative Wilson and Richards will identify officers not currently assigned to patrols to return to the streets. “What we have to do is have a renewed emphasis on connecting with our city and that’s lacking,” Woodfin said.
- Focus on High Crime Areas: “In the coming days Operation Step Up will focus on taking back those areas. There will be increased police presence,” Woodfin said. “The initiative is not left up to officers alone “I’ve also called on this city to step up as well. This will not be left up to the police alone,” he said. “Whether you are a neighborhood officer, resident, small business owner, faith-based leader work with us, tell us what’s happening in your neighborhoods,” Woodfn said. “If you live, work or own property within the city limits of Birmingham and you’re wondering how to get involved in your neighborhood, please attend the neighborhood meetings.”
- On Feb. 19, ministers will join their congregations in walking the streets as part of Project Peacemaker, an anti-violence program that was developed to target violence in Birmingham. “These are just two examples of how citizens can get involved,” Woodfin said. “We all have to get involved. Part of my job is to encourage you to step up. This is bigger than law enforcement. My message today is simple. We as adults have to come together to take back our neighborhoods and that’s what we’ll do.”