The Tuscaloosa Police Department will temporarily relax its enforcement of state law that regulates how dark a driver's windows tint can be after facing community backlash, chief Brent Blankley said in a press conference Monday morning.

Last month, Blankley told the city council that his officers would be using too-dark window tint as a reason to stop drivers and look for drugs or weapons.

District 2 City Councilwoman Raevan Howard, who joined Blankley in the press conference Monday, said she has been contacted by several citizens who were concerned about the chief's fresh focus on a law that's been on the books for decades but never seriously enforced.

"This decision has created anger, frustration and confusion, especially following the murder of George Floyd," Howard said. "Understanding this, the police chief has agreed to my request to implement a minimum 60-day grace period. Even more importantly, it will allow the chief, myself and law enforcement to engage our community and listen."

Howard said the relevant law was passed in 1996 and Alabama's drivers are likely not even aware of it. Someone who buys a used car or gets a tint job done may have no idea they are running afoul of the law.

Backtracking from his claims last week that the tint laws would primarily be enforced to give officers a legitimate reason to search vehicles for contraband, Blankley said Monday that his primary concern is officer safety. Some drivers are on the streets of Tuscaloosa with tint that allows only 5 percent light transmission when state law requires 32 percent or more.

"That makes it impossible for officers, when they stop someone for a violation, to see inside the vehicle," Blankley said. "That's a risk to them, and we've got to keep our officers safe -- they're working hard in the community to make it safer for everybody."

Blankley said TPD wants to see improvement in this area through community cooperation, not an aggressive crackdown.

"We will not pull anybody over for tint during the 60-day grace period, which will allow the public to adjust to our request on this," he said.

Rather than commit to returning to strict enforcement on August 1st, Blankley said his department will spend the next two months in dialogues with the community and see where we stand after the 60 days is up.

 

Blankley, Howard and mayor Walt Maddox also spoke briefly about the death of George Floyd, who was killed during his arrest in Minneapolis, Minnesota last month, and the protests and riots that have erupted nationwide in its aftermath.

Maddox and Howard both called Floyd's death a murder and said they fully support peaceful demonstrations to protest it, but said destroying property and hurting people will never make the messages of justice and racial unity heard.

Blankley echoed those sentiments and said when hundreds gathered in downtown Tuscaloosa Sunday to protest TPD was there to block the roads for them, pass out water and more, but that the department will not stand idly by if further demonstrations turn ugly.

"As long as protests stay peaceful, we will fully support them," Blankley said. "We have to look at our plan of action if that they aren't and we are prepared for that, but we do not want to go that route. I think as Tuscaloosa citizens, we need to show the world that people can protest peacefully here."

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