While sheriff’s are responsible for maintaining law within their counties, each municipality in Alabama has its own local police department responsible for the peacekeeping and law enforcement of its jurisdiction. However, what many fail to realize is that police departments offer many resources and services beyond simple patrol and emergency response procedures. Local city police departments keep record of criminal activity and are a resource for citizens and victims of violence, and they offer services for the purpose of educating against violence and criminal lifestyles. City police departments design their services and procedures around the needs, demographics, and geography of their jurisdictions, and each police department has procedures and services unique from the rest.
For instance, the city of Montgomery, Alabama offers police-supported neighborhood watch programs, utilizing the volunteer efforts of citizens which increases security and saves money for the community as a whole. Many Alabama police departments, including the Tuscaloosa PD, offer citizen police academies which aim to educate citizens about the services and protections offered by the local police department. This aims to increase communication and trust between citizens and the police department while giving citizens a first-hand look into the duties and services of their local police forces.
While every Alabama police department is unique, each department has four main bureaus in common: administrative, support, patrol, and investigations. While each bureau has its own line of duty, they all work together to form a cohesive system to maintain safety and security within their communities.
The administrative bureau assists the department in organizational and communicative capacities, ensuring every operation runs smoothly and all records are accounted for. These bureaus oversee record keeping and releases, and they maintain the procedures set forth by the municipality for record releases to the public. Some cities, like Birmingham, simply require an appropriate form and payment in the sum of twenty-five (25) to thirty (30) dollars be submitted via mail or in person to the department for the release of criminal records and incident reports. Other cities, like Birmingham, make records even more accessible, only requiring a minimal one (1) to two (2) dollar fee for the release of all public records.
The supportive operations bureaus maintain community relationships and provide functional support for patrol and investigative divisions. Their services include community outreach programs, citizen training for neighborhood watch programs (where applicable), technical support for patrolling and investigative officers, and public relations services for the police department.
Patrol officers respond to emergency situations and patrol their jurisdictions for potential crime, ensuring citizen support in the event of a tragic or emergency situation. These officers are often many citizens’ only interaction with the police force, and their training is the most rigorous of every police bureau. They are required to maintain physical and mental agility, and they require training in how to handle a number of life threatening situations.
Finally, investigative officers analyze evidence of crimes, potential crimes, and organized crimes within their communities to execute sting operations and eradicate crime. These investigative bureaus include detectives who specialize in cold cases, who are trained in forensic investigations, and who gather and record evidence from the scene of a crime. Investigative officers usually have many years’ experience in law enforcement, and they are often required to be available on-call during odd hours, as many investigative officers specialize in specific crimes and must be available to crime scenes at any given moment.
Alabama is presently one of the most violent-crime riddled states in the United States, and police forces in its biggest cities are prepared to work together to attack crime of every kind. Alabama’s biggest cities, Birmingham and Montgomery, are known for two of America’s worst crime-rated cities. Birmingham has a crime index of one (1) percent (one hundred (100) percent being the safest), meaning it is safer than only one (1) percent of America’s cities. Montgomery is slightly safer with a crime index of seven (7) percent, which is still a difficult sign for the city’s law enforcement agencies.
Birmingham has recently responded to its crime rate with Operation Eagle, a massive sting operation that aims to eradicate illegal guns, drugs, and bad behavior. The Birmingham Police Department (BPD) hopes that this thirty (30)-day initiative during the month of April, 2017 will let civilians and criminals alike know that they are aware of the problems facing the city, and that they take crime seriously. Officers will use overtime to band together against violence and crime, as this organized initiative takes an “all hands on deck” approach against criminals within Birmingham’s borders.