Birmingham’s first black sheriff, court officials rethink US policing

Birmingham, Alabama pinned on a map

AL.COM (AP) — In a state where conservative politicians typically preach about getting tough on crime, the new sheriff of Jefferson County Alabama, veteran law enforcement officer Mark Pettway, ran and won on an alternative message. He favors decriminalizing marijuana, opposes arming school employees, supports additional jailhouse education programs to reduce recidivism and plans for deputies to go out and talk to people more often, rather than just patrolling.

Pettway became the first black person elected sheriff in Birmingham on the same day voters elected the community’s first black district attorney. Sheriff Pettway sees himself as part of a new wave of officers and court officials tasked with enforcing laws and rebuilding community trust fractured by police shootings, mass incarceration, and uneven enforcement that critics call racist.

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