MONTGOMERY — Attorney General Steve Marshall said the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles has no responsibility in dealing with Alabama’s severely crowded prisons.
“Their responsibility is making public safety decisions on who should be released, and that has nothing to do with the number of beds we have available or the number of people that are in prison,” Marshall told reporters Thursday at the 20th annual Alabama Law Enforcement Summit.
Marshall’s comments comes after the board announced last week that parole hearings would be delayed until Nov. 1, at the earliest, pausing around 627 hearings.
Charlie Graddick, the agency’s new director, said the previous leadership was not complying with the new victim notification standards, prompting the delays.
“I believe that he would not have stopped it if he hadn’t seen a violation of the law and to understand that victims’ voices and law enforcements’ voices need to be heard when parole decisions take place. That’s why I appreciate the action that’s been taken,” Marshall said.
Marshall was one of the main supporters of the legislation enacted earlier this year that led to Graddick being appointed by Gov. Kay Ivey.
The Law Enforcement Summit is an annual event put on by the Attorney General’s Office to bring law enforcement officials from around the state together to conduct training and gather information to better improve their practices.
During the event, they also acknowledged the five officers and one police dog killed during the line of duty this year. Their families were presented with certificates of honor from Marshall and Chief Deputy Attorney General Clay Crenshaw.
Tuscaloosa Police Officer Dornell Cousette was killed Monday while serving a warrant.
Marshall said that deadly force used against law enforcement officers is “inexcusable” and thanked officers who put their lives on the line every day.
“It’s why not only we should be thankful for what law enforcement does but also knowing their families have their own unique sacrifices as well because, unlike most professions, when those families say goodbye to law enforcement officers there is no assurance that they are coming home,” Marshall said.
Also during the summit, there were presentations on human trafficking and planning for civil unrest.
Kyla Lanier, deputy director of Truckers Against Trafficking, was there to educate law enforcement on how to spot victims of human trafficking and to help prosecute perpetrators.
Capt. Don Jones, of the Knoxville, Tennessee Police Department, gave the presentation on training officers for civil unrest. Marshall said he hopes the training will teach officers how to deal with protests in a safe, effective and professional way.
Marshall also noted that he hopes the community will see these summits as proof that officers believe in training and think it is important to conduct their jobs professionally in order to keep the community safe.
Marshall said one of the reasons community members still may not trust law enforcement is because of a lack of understanding of their function.
“It is truly that they have the responsibility to enforce the law,” Marshall said. “That means they are not always going to be doing things that make people happy but yet it is incumbent upon them to effectively do their jobs in a way that’s consistent with public safety.”
Alabama’s Law Enforcement Agency Secretary Hal Taylor told reporters he believes there is a lack of respect for law enforcement from the community and that they don’t fully understand the difficulties of their job.
“Years ago, I think the police and the community were thought of differently and respected differently. Not that everyone feels that way today. I think that lack of respect, possibly, is what causes some people to choose another career and maybe think about something else they want to do,” Taylor said.
Taylor said ALEA has made efforts to reach out more to community members to introduce more trust, but Marshall says the work to reconcile needs to happen both ways.
“Communities have to respond in an effective way as well and that relationship with law enforcement and the community is vital. We need to do everything from both sides to make sure we can enhance and foster the relationship between those two parties,” Marshall said.
U.S. Attorney Louis Franklin announced Wednesday that an Alabama Department of Corrections lieutenant was indicted by a federal grand jury for not stopping a sergeant under his command from assaulting two inmates at the Elmore Correctional Facility.
Marshall said he hopes the indictment shows that law enforcement is not afraid to hold their own accountable.
Sgt. Ulysses Oliver has already plead guilty to unlawfully assaulting the two inmates in April, and two other corrections officers pleaded guilty for failing to intervene to prevent the abuse.