Tuscaloosa City Council Public Safety Committee to Revisit Ban on Funeral Escorts
Tuscaloosa business owner and District 5 representative on the Tuscaloosa City School Board Erika Grant wants the City of Tuscaloosa to return to police escorts for funeral processions. Her request to the council was made during last night's meeting as she recounted how she was nearly involved in an accident during a procession without an escort.
"I was at Stillman homecoming and was almost in a wreck back in February at Martin Luther King (Boulevard) and 15th Street." Grant told the council via internet live stream. "It was a funeral coming through. Cars were everywhere and almost and eight car pileup happened."
Ms. Grant questioned why the city escorts football teams and officials during Alabama home football games and not virtually daily funerals in the city.
The city ended funeral escorts on September 2, 2011 after TPD Officer Trevor Phillips was killed while escorting a funeral procession on his motorcycle. In a press release then, the police department reminded, "...citizens that are leaving a funeral must obey all traffic laws to get to graveside services."
Cities across Alabama and the nation has stopped escorting funerals citing the danger to officers and motorists as traffic volume has increased over the years. Mayor Walt Maddox told Grant he had been convinced by former police chief Steve Anderson and motor officers that funeral escorts were, "...just another way to put officers into harm."
"We not only cut funeral escorts but drastically cut back escorts for high schools, colleges and in the case of the university, that is a homeland security issue because of the number of people and the number of threats that are out there." Maddox added.
"If it is done for UA for safety, if it is done for some it should be done for all," Grant urged.
Maddox replied the only way he would reverse that order is by vote of the city council. "I made a pledge that day that I would never put another one of our officers needlessly in harms way." He says he understands the community's funeral homes disagree with him but he promised officers families he would not add additional danger to an already hazardous job.
Grant respectfully disagreed with Maddox telling him, "It is not only the officer's that are risk, the citizens are at risk. I could have lost my life because of that (not having an escort)."
Ms. Grant will bring he request to the council's next public safety committee meeting on June 23rd.