EB citizens voice concerns

Published 2:00am Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The council chambers at East Brewton City hall held dozens of East Brewton residents on hand to voice concerns over the possibility of relinquishing police service to the City of Brewton.
“I’m worried we would be stepchildren to Brewton’s police department,” Clyde Godwin said.
Other residents said they are satisfied with the current protection from the East Brewton police officers, but still others said they wanted the city to make the decision that made the best sense — including financial sense — for residents and for the city’s budget.
“I like it like it is,” Annie Wilson said. “If I have a problem, I can come to (Mayor Terry Clark) or the council. I don’t want to have to go to Brewton when I have a problem.”
Although Wilson said she believed service was adequate, Henry Hooks — who lives just around the corner from Wilson — said the lack of police presence was a danger to the community.
“I have mixed feelings on this,” Hooks said. “It can only help if we take Brewton in as our police department. We need a better police presence to keep things safe. I have seen things down there on my street happen that are really dangerous. I think we need a better police presence, but I don’t think you can do it with one policeman.”
East Brewton has five full-time officers, with one to two officers on duty at any given time.
Jimmy McClelland said he believes the work being performed by the current force in East Brewton is sufficient. “I think our police department does a fairly good job with what you’ve got,” McClelland said. “I have no gripe with the police department, but I’ve got a problem with the justice system.”
In response to the question of how the change would benefit East Brewton, Councilman Ned Sibert said it came down to a simple answer — money.
“You elected us to take care of your dollars, and that’s what we’ll do,” he said.
McClelland said making cuts elsewhere in the city could likely cover the cost of a functioning police department in East Brewton.
“Look a little deeper than just the police department,” McClelland said. “I think if you trim a little here and yonder, you could probably find the money.”
Mayor Terry Clark said he is adamantly against turning over control of law enforcement to Brewton’s police department.
“I am totally, 100 percent against doing this,” Clark said. “We are going to lose complete control of East Brewton if we let them take over. I figured a savings of only $50,000 or $60,000 a year this way. I feel like we can handle things based on that. One of my concerns is if we do this, it would be for three years. What if in three years they don’t want to do it anymore? We would then have to come up with about $250,000 just to get back in the business of policing our city.”
Clark traced the idea of having Brewton take over police services to December, when Brewton police said they would no longer handle dispatching services for East Brewton on nights and weekends.
Brewton Police Chief Monte McGougin has said that the City of Brewton could not handle the liability of dispatch services in a city where it did not have control over law enforcement. In other words, if a dispatched call was not answered by East Brewton police, Brewton could be liable.
“Brewton refused to do our weekend dispatching and we hired new dispatchers,” Clark said. “Brewton was providing weekend and graveyard dispatching for us, and they said it was a headache to the city of Brewton and they didn’t want to do it anymore.”
If the police service for East Brewton were contracted with any other agency, employees on staff in East Brewton would become a statistic in the unemployment line, said Clark, who does not believe the five officers and four dispatchers would be hired in Brewton.
McGougin has said that he would hire two new officers if Brewton takes over law enforcement in East Brewton.
“We’ve got nine or 10 people that are going to lose their jobs,” Clark said. “They’ll be allowed to apply with Brewton, but they won’t be hired.”
Durwood Mantel said he is concerned about protection, regardless of which department was obligated to provide that protection.
“We need to go where the money is best to get the best police protection for the least amount of money,” Mantel said. “We need protection some way.”
Clark said members of the current police staff have stepped up to take care of protection to the city and its residence to the best of their ability.
“We ran half a year with only three officers,” Clark said. “We now have a full crew and they’ve been doing a good job. If you step across those tracks, you’ll find problems. There are problems everywhere. If we are going to function as a city, we need our own police department.”
If the East Brewton City Council decides to move forward with a contract, a resolution to that effect will have to be made, Clark said.
“The council will have to vote on passing that resolution or not,” he said. “You all have voiced your opinions in this matter and they will consider that.”
No decision on a possible contract was made during Monday’s meeting.

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