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The Birmingham Police Department is working to improve morale and the working environment for officers, according to a statement provided to media Wednesday. However, some officers say they aren't seeing issues being addressed.
The Birmingham Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) has been calling on the department to make changes for years after hearing from officers about issues such as officer shootings, a lack of support from leadership and a lack of resources.
In May 2021, the FOP unanimously issued a vote of no confidence for then-chief Patrick Smith. Eight months later, Smith resigned due to personal matters, and Scott Thurmond was appointed as chief by Mayor Randall Woodfin.
This year, Birmingham officers appeared before the city council complaining about pay and staffing shortages. Although Woodfin said he would correct the problem after the beginning of the new fiscal year, officers have spoken publicly just this week about continued challenges that make their jobs more difficult and sometimes impossible.
"The Birmingham Police Department's leadership is open to meeting with the members of the department and the Fraternal Order of Police [FOP] at any time," said Thurmond in a statement. "The Birmingham Police Department began the process of reinstituting it's [sic] Quality Circle meetings on Monday of this week in an effort to hear the concerns of the department's members. The Quality Circle meetings were paused for some time due to COVID-19 and now being reinstated to hear and address the concerns of our employees."
The Birmingham Police Department is the largest in the state and is currently facing rising crime numbers, with homicides spiking. The number of homicides this year in the city is on track to surpass annual homicide counts over the past three decades. Officers are concerned that their comrades are leaving to go to neighboring police departments that offer much more than Birmingham.
Thurmond has said he is committed to improving the situation in Birmingham, but he said societal influences have caused an uptick in crime nationwide.
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