“Nobody can tell me about crime or what to do about crime, just like I can’t tell them about their business,” said Randy Davis, referring to his years serving as a Birmingham police officer and Jefferson County deputy sheriff. “I’m not knocking anybody, don’t get me wrong, but I just feel as though, with who I know and what I know, I could do a whole lot more than what’s going on now.”
Davis, who continues to serve as a reserve deputy sheriff for the county, launched his campaign in March. Davis will compete against school board member Randall Woodfin, pastor Fernandez Sims, business owner Ervin Philemon Hill, community activist Carlos Chaverst, and educator Patricia Bell to unseat incumbent Mayor William Bell.
A vital first step in reducing Birmingham’s crime problem, Davis said, is improving the relationship between the police department and the community. “One out of three people has been influenced by the police in their life, either for good or bad. So you have to bring everybody together,” Davis said. “Some people take it as us versus them, and it should not be that way. I was always told to respect my elders and the police growing up. I never looked at the police as if they’re an enemy or something to that nature.”
Davis said that he wants to change the way many patrols are done, having officers spend less time in their patrol cars and more time walking their beats, interacting and building a rapport with the citizens they protect. Davis also proposed putting together a task force of officers, some in uniform and some in plainclothes, who will patrol downtown on foot and be able to quickly respond to calls throughout the city.
“Crime has just manifested into something serious. It is not your everyday crime like it was back in the day,” Davis said, saying that criminals today can now determine the response time of patrol cars leaving the station and plan their escape accordingly. By placing officers throughout the city, many of them undercover, Davis hopes to ensure that an officer is always close enough to a potential crime to reach the area faster than could cops called in from the station.
Davis named the hypothetical task force “Operation: Spider,” explaining that, as a spider can react to movement anywhere along its web, he intends for this force to be able to quickly get officers to the scene of any crime downtown.
Davis similarly promised to improve the relationship between the community and city hall if he were to be elected. As mayor, Davis vowed he would hold regular meetings with the citizens throughout the city so that he could hear their needs and problems first hand. “There is no need to have buffers” between the mayor and the people, he said, and these meetings would reassure community members that they are being heard by their city government.
“That’s why we’d come together, so I can hear your concerns and what’s going on. Nobody has eyes and ears everywhere — that’s why communities and the mayor are supposed to be as one. [As mayor] I’m supposed to know people in my community,” he said.
His administration would also set up an email system that would allow citizens to send requests directly to an employee at City Hall who would contact the proper department and ensure that the situation is being looked after. “A lot of people don’t feel like they’re being communicated to,” Davis said. “All people want is some type of communication. Not just token words, but [an assurance that] we’re sending somebody to monitor this, [and] this is what we’re doing.”
Davis also said he plans to oversee the construction of new community centers across the city that will serve, when needed, as storm shelters. He would fund the endeavor using federal grants. “You have to revitalize these areas with programs and with community centers. … The city can use federal money, that’s what people don’t understand. It may take a year and a half, but there is so much money you can apply for,” Davis said.
These community centers would house new after-school programs, which he described as valuable tools to develop the character of Birmingham’s students and to ensure that they stay out of trouble. Davis noted that many businesses and vendors with branches in the area, like Coca-Cola or Buffalo Rock, regularly give millions of dollars to charity, and said that he planned to reach out to them about helping to sponsor his afterschool programs.
The programs proposed by Davis would offer college students class credit to come mentor school children, and he discussed partnering with local churches to bring motivational speakers and others who could contribute to the cultivation of good habits. In addition to teaching children valuable life skills, Davis explained, these programs would help them form healthy relationships with mentors and peers.
“It’s just simple stuff about being in tune with your community,” Davis said. “I’m not all about ‘Free, free, free,’ but these are things that need to take place.”