New chief: Drugs, theft problems
By By MARY-ALLISON LANCASTER – Managing editor
Brewton's new police chief has been on the job only a few days, but already is addressing issues like officers' pay and the need for additional training.
Police Chief Monte McGougin is among 17 certified, full-time and part-time police officers who work at the Brewton Police Department. McGougin will not be sworn in since the city of Brewton typically only swears in elected officials.
McGougin said he has spent time getting to know his officers one-on-one, discussing what the likes and dislikes they have at the department and what they would like changed.
He spoke earlier this week about his long-term goals for the city of Brewton and for the police department, as well as what he has been doing to better the department since he stepped foot in the station as the new police chief on Oct. 13.
Question: It has been reported that the officers at the Brewton Police Department are the lowest paid officers in the county. What do you plan to do about that, and how soon will your plan go into effect?
Answer: “That is true, we are the lowest paid, starting pay at $8.11, and that is extremely low for a police officer. I've already spoken to the mayor and introduced a section of the budget that is nothing more than asking for an adequate raise for the police officers. That's for the man that's been here two months to the man that's been here almost 20 years. The mayor is looking over it at this time and said he would review it and get back with me.”
McGougin said that as “far as I'm concerned,” the pay raises will go into effect Chief Mickey Lovelace's last day, which is on Oct. 26. The latest he sees the pay raises go into effect is the first of the year, but he'd prefer for it to go into effect very soon.
The pay raise would be increased from $8.11 to $10 for officers with no police academy certification and $11.50 for police academy certified officers.
McGougin also has requested permission to increase shifts from eight hours to 12 hours. This, he says, will allow his officers “to have every other weekend off and several days during the week depending on how the shift falls.”
Both, he said, have to be approved by the mayor and the city council.
QUESTION: You began work on Oct. 13. What kind of challenges have you faced so far?
ANSWER: “In three days probably the largest challenge is coming in and the men not knowing me, or if they do know me, not knowing what my intentions are. A lot of guys hear things that are not true, or they make their own perception of what's false. I've sat down individually with each employee and had an hour set aside and have gone over what they like about the police department and three things they dislike about the police department. One of the biggest challenges I feel is trying to come in and earn their respect. I understand that respect is something you do have to earn; it's not something you come in demanding. Everyday I come into work I feel it's better. The guys are starting to come around and starting to figure out who I am, I'm figuring out who they are and we're starting to make that bond that police officers need. It's actually a good feeling to see everybody come around and work together because there is a good group of men and women here.”
McGougin said he is working hard to get the top three requests for the guys.
He said a lot of the officers asked for bulletproof vests and cameras inside their cars. The investigators are asking for him to update their investigation equipment, while the patrol officers are requesting newer cars because “they have a lot of miles on them” and the patrolmen would like video equipment for safety reasons.
Safety appears to be the main concern among the officers because both divisions have requested more training.
Question: Prior to your application submittal you were working at the county level in the sheriff's office. What was the appeal to move from a county position to a city position?
Answer: “I don't think I enjoy working anymore for the county than I do being a police officer, and now this point the chief. I was a lt. of investigation for a period of time. I set goals, and one of my goals was to advance in law enforcement. With the chief's job opening in Brewton, it definitely was an advancement for myself. Something I wanted to do, I took pride in doing, not that I didn't have pride being a supervisor in the investigation division, but it was an advancement for me that I felt I needed to step forward and do, and luckily I was given the opportunity to do this. Also, I've worked hard in the last 11 years of my career to basically get myself ready for something of this nature. Bottom line, it's still police work no matter how you turn it.”
Question: Some people in the community say you are too inexperienced to be Brewton's police chief. Despite your young age, you have a pretty decorated resume. You began at the sheriff's department as an investigator, you were promoted to sergeant of investigations and finally promoted to lieutenant. You were also the commanding officer for the Domestic Violence Unit, among other various jobs. What do you think you can to do to change their minds, and how do you think your experience with those departments will help you in the long run as police chief?
Answer: “First of all, I'd like to say that I haven't read anybody's resume other than my own, and I don't know who's who or what's what. As far as experience is concerned I can only speak of my own