The citizens of Baldwin County have 14 municipalities, with police departments and a sheriff’s department. For the most part they do a very good job of protecting the citizens of Baldwin County. One disturbing trend among the police and sheriff’s department is the acquisition of military weapons and the lack of any acquisition of non-lethal weapons.
In the small and mostly rural community of Bay Minette the police chief, in a newsletter, outlined the latest grant and equipment purchases for the police department. Keep in mind this is a small police department and one of a total of 15 different police agencies in Baldwin County.
“The Bay Minette Police department had a great year regarding grants and equipment purchases. We received AR-15 rifles, 3 new vehicles, a Humvee high water/ off road vehicle, gloves, drone, cell phones, medical kits, tourniquets, ballistic shields, covert audio and video equipment, spikes [tire deflation devise], and rapid SOS for dispatch, totaling approximately $212,000 in Grant funds.”
Now before some people get their panties in a wad, this is not an attack on the good work of the police. The police work for the citizens and it is their duty to protect us to the BEST of their ability.
It is disturbing that police departments are prioritizing lethal combat weapons without putting any priority on non-lethal weapons. The other issue is the use of body cameras that are suppose to enhance accountability.
Recently the sheriff’s office has refused to turn over critical footage of body camera and vehicle footage in the Johnathan Victor case. Lagniappe has had to hire an attorney and take legal action in order to acquire “missing” footage in the Victor case. The issue is still in court.
This is one of several incidents, in the last couple of years where excessive force was used and NO non lethal weapons were used by the BCSO. This case has now found it’s way to federal court, with another case soon to follow. In a deposition Sheriff Hoss Mack made an absolutely astonishing statement, “ that at the time, may 2017, BCSO had no crisis intervention team and deputies had not been trained in de-escalation techniques”.
UN armed, Johnathan Victor was shot four times with an Ruger AR-15 from 7 yards. Where were the non-lethal weapons? Where are the body cam videos and vehicle videos or covert audio? 7 yards, measure that, 21 feet, he had no weapon. Mr Victor could have been subdued with numerous non-lethal
Are we a society with police forces that puts a priority on killing and the use of lethal weapons rather than training officers in DE-escalation and the use of non-lethal weapons?
Mental illness and people in an altered state of mind are often confronted by police, in fact it is a common place.
Baldwin County Police forces should be required to have as much non-lethal weapons as they do, lethal, military weapons. They should also have mandated classes for every officer “ to respond in a proportionate and appropriate manner to injured individuals and/or individuals displaying signs of an altered state of mind”.
Baldwin County Police Forces should be required to turn over all body cam videos, vehicle videos or any other videos that the citizens pay for or the police receive through grants, that is accountability. Keep in mind these purchases are made on the “sales pitch” of providing more accountability, not providing them to the public is a broken promise and the opposite of accountability.
Baldwin County Sheriff’s Department should be required to hand over any cases to an unbiased and unrelated police agency, to investigate cases where a loss of life by the hands of sheriff officers, or police officers, are involved. The current policy has these cases investigated by the sheriff’s department selecting, related police departments or his selected agency, formed by him, investigating themselves. The current policy depends on police immunity not on police accountability.
Lagniappe articles are sometimes secured with a paywall, BEHIND THE SCENES, by Gabriel Tynes was published January 19 2021