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  • Writer's pictureDonald V. Watkins

Gov. Ivey Should Deploy the National Guard to Restore Law and Order in Birmingham

Updated: Jun 14

By: Donald V. Watkins

Copyrighted and Published on May 19, 2024

IMAGE: Alabama Gov. Ivey meets with the senior leadership of the Alabama National Guard in her state Capitol office on June 13, 2017. Ivey was prepared to send the National Guard to Wisconsin to help that state deal with its unrest.

An Editorial Opinion


Numbers don’t lie. Here’s the cold, hard truth about the deteriorating public safety situation in Birmingham, Alabama.


Fully staffed, the Birmingham Police Department requires 900 sworn officers to provide adequate public safety in the city. During the past seven years, the money needed for a fully staffed police department has been diverted to support an army of highly-paid department heads, assistants in the mayor’s office, non-essential consultants, and pet projects for rich and powerful special interest groups. Much of this spending was pure “pork” for political cronies who brought no real value to the table.


Today, the city budgets for only 725 sworn officers while employing only 430 officers.


Morale within the dwindling ranks of Birmingham police officers is at an all-time low, according to a May 17, 2024, investigative report by WVTM13 reporter Jon Paepcke.


The city plans to remedy this chronic understaffing by organizing and implementing a 200-person Civilian Observer Patrol. Members of the Patrol will monitor criminal activity in the city's most dangerous neighborhoods and call the police department whenever they see these crimes in progress.


This ill-conceived, knee-jerk plan will only get more innocent people -- namely, the unarmed members of the Civilian Patrol Observers -- killed or wounded when they encounter hardcore gang members and drug dealers in the midst of committing their various violent crimes. This is particularly true for crimes like drive-by shootings, turf wars, carjackings, armed robberies, and the street execution of rival gang members.


In the last seven years, more than 914 people have been victims of violent homicides in the city. The victim count increases everyday.


During the same seven-year period, more than 17,630 have fled the city like war refugees.


No one is safe in Birmingham except for privileged city, county, state, and federal officials who have full-time security details.


Property values in the city have plummeted. Residential properties and commercial buildings in the most dangerous parts of the city have almost no fair market value as collateral on bank loan applications.


Historically white and private Birmingham-Southern College, which is located off Arkadelphia Road, is closing its doors at the end of the month rather than trying to survive in a war zone. Its students have transferred to safer locations.


For the past seven years, city schools, which are NOT underfunded, have occupied a permanent place on the state’s list of failed schools. Unbelievably, there are two "Magnet" schools on the list of failed schools.


Once booming businesses within the city are collapsing, and many of them are fleeing to safer locations.


The numbers confirm that public safety is NOT a priority at City Hall, even though public safety is one of the seven basic services that a city is required to deliver to its taxpaying residents.


Today, public safety is virtually non-existent in Birmingham. Fueled by drug trafficking and street gang turf wars, violent crime has spiraled out of control. As part of their initiation into street gangs, new gang members are sometimes required to kill targets designated by the gang.


Recently, local drug dealers and street gangs in Birmingham formed powerful alliances with international drug cartels and national street gangs to expand their lucrative fentanyl trade into Birmingham's suburbs. As a result of these alliances, the city is now facing a homegrown breed of super-criminals.


Veteran police officers characterize the city as a "war zone."


Puppet Government at City Hall


Seven years ago, Alabama Power Company installed a puppet government at City Hall in Birmingham. The company’s headquarters, which is located one block from City Hall, is where public policy decisions for the city of Birmingham are actually made.


The city's puppet government has done a wonderful job of protecting and advancing Alabama Power’s corporate interests at the expense of everything else. Using taxpayers' money, this puppet government has funded more than $120 million in projects favored by Alabama Power.


For example, City Hall provided $90 million in funding for a football stadium for the University of Alabama at Birmingham. It also provided over $10 million in cash and indirect support to bail out the failed World Games 2022, which was headed by an Alabama Power executive.


City Hall contributed $5 million to the construction of a downtown amphitheater for the rich. It also gave a dying Birmingham-Southern College $5 million to help pay off its creditors.


Finally, City Hall poured over $10 million into a variety of other Alabama Power pet projects that would have never seen the light of day in a more enlightened, prudent, and fiscally responsible city hall.


As expected, the explosion in crime in Birmingham created the need for a new city jail. Because City Hall chose to waste taxpayers' money on Alabama Power’s pet projects, the city does not have the money to build a new jail.


Gubernatorial Intervention is Required to Save Lives and Preserve Property Values in Metro-Birmingham


It’s time for Gov. Kay Ivey to activate the Alabama National Guard to restore law and order in Birmingham. If Ivey does not provide adequate police protection for Birmingham's residents, nobody else will.


Gov. Ivey must act now. It is the only hope metro-Birmingham has for (a) containing Birmingham’s increasingly violent crime wave within the city limits and (b) keeping it from spilling over into Homewood, Vestavia Hills, Hoover, Mountain Brook, and other nearby suburban communities.


If Birmingham's surge in violent crime is NOT contained, it will flood the nearby suburban communities with a wide range of horrific criminal activity that is perpetrated by increasingly dangerous and violent gang members and drug dealers who have no fear of prison or death. Gubernatorial intervention is also needed to save lives in these communities and preserve their property values.


New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, proactively deployed her state's National Guard to provide much-needed public safety for New York City's subway system. It worked.


Deploying the National Guard to Birmingham will NOT offend Alabama Power Company in any way. This giant electric utility has no permanent allegiance to the individuals who occupy elected positions within City Hall. Privately, Alabama Power views this group of officeholders as petty “political whores.” The company can always find a replacement group of elected officials to tote its political water.


Saving metro-Birmingham from violent street gang activities and cartel-level drug dealing is NOT a racial issue. It is NOT a Democrat versus Republican issue. It is NOT a political power grab. It is NOT a political stunt. It is simply the right thing to do for metro-Birmingham residents whose tax dollars entitle them to adequate police protection.


This is the cold, hard truth.

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Donald V. Watkins
Donald V. Watkins
May 20

Since 2022, Birmingham’s police chief has repeatedly stated that a police force of 900 sworn officers is required to adequately protect the city’s residents. There are only 430 sworn officers on the street today. Gov. Ivey should deploy 470 National Guard members to bring the police force up to 900 immediately. A police force that is understaffed by 50% jeopardizes the lives and safety of the remaining officers who continue to serve the public. Who in their right mind would object to this temporary solution to the police department’s chronic understaffing problem, and why?

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Donald V. Watkins
Donald V. Watkins
May 20

I understand that City Hall is angry with me for publishing this article. They want Alabama Power Company to spank me, so to speak. There is a long line of people and entities who want to spank me because of the investigative articles I have published. The better use of their time, energy, and resources at City Hall would be to focus on doing their jobs in a manner that makes their political constituents proud. This cannot be done by gaslighting them all of the time.

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Donald V. Watkins
Donald V. Watkins
May 20

I do not accept advertising money, subscription fees, or sponsorships to support my digital news media platforms because I always want to be in a position to say the things that need to be said. I leave it to other media organizations to anestheize the public with "Happy News" and sports coverage.

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Donald V. Watkins
Donald V. Watkins
May 20

If Gov. Ivey can send Alabama National Guard troop all the way to Texas and Wisconsin to provide law and order in those states, I know she can send them to Birmingham to protect taxpaying residents from dangerous super-criminals who are poised to invade Birmingham's suburbs.

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