North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

June 7, 2012

Our Views: When police break the law, the confidence of the public is shaken

North Jefferson News

AN NJN EDITORIAL — Birmingham Police Chief A.C. Roper is having to lament the actions of one of his own officers.

Sadly, it’s not the first time.

Curtis Thornton, a third-year officer out of the West Precinct and a resident of Warrior, was charged with multiple arson and related counts for fires near his home, and then again for one count of arson in a series of 13 suspicious fires in Ensley last month. Thornton is under investigation for the other fires in that series.

Like all suspects, Thornton is innocent until proven guilty. Having said that, his arrest is another black mark on a department that has had more than its share, and Roper faces a daunting task in restoring his department’s reputation in the eyes of the public.

In 2009, another officer from the West Precinct — James Kendrick, who was on the force for a dozen years — drove on I-20/59 at more than double the speed limit, and had a blood-alcohol level way over the legal limit. He ran into a car driven by a music minister for a church in Hueytown, who was killed instantly. Kendrick was later convicted of reckless manslaughter and sentenced to 12 years in prison; he’ll serve that soon after his appeal was recently denied.

Birmingham Police have enough bad history to deal with from its actions in the civil-rights struggles on the 1960s. Now its reputation suffers from rogue individuals, while its best officers leave for suburbs with better pay.

Chief Roper has his hands full with a department that appears to be in trouble. Let’s hope he gets things under control, and soon.