SPLC Releases Legislative Wish List, State Investigates Police Taser Death

Feb 16, 2016

Southern Poverty Law Center, Montgomery, Ala.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has its own wish list for the current legislative session.

The SPLC’s 2016 Legislative Guide focuses on issues like education, economics and equal rights. The guide doesn't just outline problems; it also offers possible solutions.

Rhonda Brownstein is the legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center. She says more state money needs to be allocated to education, not jails.

“We need to stop bleeding the state budget to feed the huge incarceration we have in the state, and start diverting some of that money where it’s really needed, which is in our public schools. Prison spending has increased by 171 percent.”

The guide is available to the public online at the SPLC’s website.

A mental health patient at Athens-Limestone Hospital died after police used a Taser on him a week before.

Athens Police Chief Floyd Johnson says his department received a call earlier this month asking for help with a patient who was reportedly out of control in the hospital’s emergency room. The man was allegedly fighting with medical staff, who were attempting to give him a mental health exam.

Responding officers told the man’s mother they would need to deploy a Taser to subdue him, and she agreed. The man then began having trouble breathing and died later that week. Autopsy results are still pending.

Athens police officials say the whole altercation was captured on an officer’s body camera. The man’s identity has not yet been released, and the Alabama Bureau of Investigation is looking into the incident.

The rules are changing along some Alabama Gulf Coast beaches.

The communities of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are instituting a new policy called Leave Only Footprints. Any items left on the beach overnight will be considered abandoned and will be disposed of.

Grant Brown is the public information officer for the City of Gulf Shores. He says this initiative not only helps with public safety, but also wildlife.

“It’s a benefit for all beachgoers, because the beaches are really an asset that everybody should be able to enjoy and to utilize, and if we can keep strong attention to the natural environment and to protecting the environment and making sure that people are respectful, we feel like it will help the whole tourism industry and the whole experience that beachgoers have when they come to our beaches.”

Brown says the city will try to recycle as many of these discarded items as possible. The Leave Only Footprints policy also includes Gulf State Park.

A wildfire burning in Jackson County, Mississippi since last week spread into an Alabama marsh that officials say can’t be reached with fire equipment.

The fire began Thursday in the Grand Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Over 4,000 acres has been burned, and the Alabama Forestry Commission has joined what now totals 55 people assigned to fighting the fire across local, state and federal agencies. Strong winds have complicated the firefighting effort, as gusty conditions have allowed the flames to jump containment lines.

Officials say yesterday’s rain should help containment efforts, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service expects to have the blaze fully under control by Friday.