HUNTSVILLE, Ala — The relationship between police and the community could potentially be more important now than ever to assess and mend.
A community watch group met in Huntsville Thursday afternoon and they say it’s time to improve their neighborhood. They want Huntsville Police Department to help.
We met with Linda Turner Chirwa a member of the Meadow Hills Initiative. She tells our reporter, “We are trying to revitalize our community watch. We’ve had community watch in the Meadow Hills area since the early nineties.”
The Meadow Hills Initiative is holding its community watch meeting and invited Huntsville Police out to join. They say it’s better for all parties if the relationship between the neighbors and officers is strong.
Chirwa says, "Well, I just think we need to show the friendly side of the police. We want to show there is a friendly side. Sure, there’s a bad side as well. But, there is a friendly side.”
Neighbors of all ages came out, like young brothers and Elijah and Jerimiah.
Elijah tells us, “I feel shocked. I’ve never seen this in my life before. I can’t believe she got the police out here and they helped out with the community service.”
Jerimiah says, “I’m kind of glad that they’re here because I feel like I’m supported and we’re protected for our community.”
Huntsville Police Chief Mark McMurray paid a visit, just a week after the Huntsville Police Citizens Advisory Council found instances of ‘unprofessional’ behavior by officers during the June 2020 protests downtown.
The Chief and our reporter didn’t talk about the Citizens Council review. But, our team did ask him about why now might be a more important time than ever to grow relationships between officers and communities in Huntsville.
Chief McMurray says, “What I try to emphasize is these officers are part of the community and the only way to be a part of the community is to get out and share. These relationships are currency as far as I’m concerned. If you don’t tell us what’s going on in your community we’re just stopping by and waving. So we need to stop, we need to get out. We talked about this a little bit at city council this week. Bike patrols, get out of your car, learn who your neighbors are. Those are things we teach in community watch. The more of this we do, I feel, the better off the whole community will be.”
Huntsville has about 160 community watch organizations in the city. And this group has some big plans. Linda Turner Chirwa says, “We have a number of activities planned for the neighborhood. As a matter of fact, on May 1, we have a giveaway where we give diapers and wipes and we have an activity planned for the young men to teach them etiquette... We just had an event like that for the young ladies..."
The Meadow Hills initiative plans for the watch group to meet monthly.