MONTGOMERY, ALA. – The ACLU of Alabama today sent two public records requests to state agencies seeking information regarding a proposed plan that would authorize the Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham to establish its own police force. The records requests—sent to the Alabama Peace Officers Standards & Training Commission and the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency—demand that the agencies provide all communications with the church and all records relating to the proposal.
Earlier this week, the Alabama Senate voted to approve SB 193, which would authorize the Briarwood Presbyterian Church to appoint and employ its own police officers who would “be charged with all of the duties and invested with all of the powers of law enforcement officers” in Alabama. Under the measure, which now moves to the Alabama House, church-employed police officers would be certified by the Alabama Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission.
“The plan to create a church-operated police force and imbue it with all the powers of the State is unconstitutional,” said Randall Marshall, Legal Director of the ACLU of Alabama. “The First Amendment prohibits the government from delegating police powers to a church. If the legislature and governor pursue this unwise course of action, a legal challenge is inevitable.”
The public records requests were sent to the Alabama Peace Officers Standards & Training Commission which is responsible for certifying law enforcement officers, and the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency. Copies of the requests are here and here.
The requests ask the agencies to provide all relevant records within 30 days.