2020 was a difficult year for all. From COVID-19 to periods of civil and political unrest, our country hasn’t experienced anything quite like the past 12 months.
For all 10 members of the Huntsville Police Citizens Advisory Council (HPCAC), 2020 was a year they’ll never forget.
Charged with conducting an independent, thorough investigation of 2020 protest events and the Huntsville Police Department’s response, the HPCAC combed through facts, public meetings and one-on-one interviews with witnesses. After nearly a year, the HPCAC’s findings were made public during the April 22 City Council meeting.
To view the HPCAC report, visit huntsvillepolicereview.com
Vicki Guerrieri, who has served on the HPCAC since its inception in 2010, said she couldn’t be more proud of her colleagues for their hard work.
“They did an excellent job,” she said. “Everyone came in looking for facts, which were established, and left their feelings and emotions at the door.”
Behind the scenes
On July 9, the HPCAC launched a community input portal, where members of the public could share their thoughts and concerns directly with the HPCAC. More than 640 forms were submitted, and the HPCAC received over 200 emails. In addition to written communications, the HPCAC also accepted phone calls, video footage and photos from the public.
The City retained Elizabeth H. Huntley and Jackson Sharman of the Birmingham-based law firm, Lightfoot, Franklin & White, LLC, to assist the HPCAC with their work and provide them with experienced legal counsel in police review matters.
“They’ve been extremely transparent in the gathering of information and very accessible to the public,” Huntley said. “There were additional interviews, there was reviewing of records and all sorts of documents. It’s a tremendous amount of work in the fact-finding portion of this investigation that will give citizens assurance that the HPCAC really made a tremendous effort to leave no stone unturned and get to the bottom of what happened.”
As part of Council Resolution No. 20-487, which authorized the review, the HPCAC remained independent of Council and administrative influence.
Guerrieri said the “hands-off policy” from Mayor Tommy Battle, the City Council and other Huntsville leaders helped the investigation run more smoothly.
“We didn’t have any interaction from anyone saying, ‘Hurry up,'” she said. “There weren’t members who were displeased this was taking so long. The enormous time to look at material and facts could not be rushed.”
The HPCAC met more than two dozen times either in-person or via Zoom to exercise COVID-19 precautions. The HPCAC, a diverse group of volunteers, dedicated countless hours, including weekends, to complete the review.
Guerrieri said each board member has a “long history” of volunteer service and a heart for the community. Learn more about the HPCAC appointees here.
In addition to meetings, Huntley said HPCAC members had a large amount of reading material to review on their personal time.
“This was a fact-finding mission, and in doing so, there was a lot of information to cover,” she said. “It was a fine group of people to work with that put in a tremendous amount of time being very intentional and thorough in wanting to get a full view of what happened so they could fulfill their obligation.”
A work session for the City Administration to review the HPCAC findings will take place Wednesday, April 28, at 5 p.m. in Council Chambers. The meeting, which will not include public comments, will be live streamed on HSV TV, the City’s website and Facebook.
Guerrieri, who is in her third term as HPCAC chair, said the advisory council does not have the authority to take action or change City policy. The findings of the HPCAC will provide the City with an informed and independent look at protest events in downtown Huntsville.
“We’ll be there (on April 28) with our Council and they will go through our report and look at our recommendations to decide what actions they need to take,” she said.
For more details, click here.