DPS: Troopers doing jobs
It is the duty of the Alabama Department of Public Safety to investigate crimes and enforce the laws of Alabama. As director of Public Safety, I take this responsibility very seriously.
On Jan. 29, Public Safety and the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board took part in law enforcement operations at VictoryLand in Macon County and Country Crossing in Houston County, as part of the Governor’s Task Force on Illegal Gambling. We have not released detailed information about those law enforcement operations, including the number of personnel involved, because these operations are part of an ongoing criminal investigation. In any law enforcement operation, however, we work to ensure enough personnel to fulfill the mission. We take into account a number of considerations in determining needed personnel. First and foremost is public safety and officer safety. We also must plan for removing and securing evidence; in these two venues, the volume of evidence is significant. Three additional considerations are traffic control, scene control and crowd control.
It is standard protocol to conduct these type operations without notice and during early morning hours, when the fewest number of patrons are inside. This protocol minimizes the risk of incident and maximizes the likelihood of obtaining evidence of criminal activity. The element of surprise is particularly important in these cases because, contrary to media reports, our investigation into illegal gambling is not necessarily limited to the legality of the gambling machines in question. Evidence obtained in the course of these operations may be used to prosecute other serious crimes, such as theft and fraud, financial and tax crimes, and public corruption.
We do not establish Alabama’s laws; we are charged with the mission of enforcing them. Public Safety plans, trains and equips to meet the demands of state police service: from enforcing traffic law to licensing drivers, from conducting criminal investigations to tracking down sexual predators, from responding to natural disasters to fulfilling our law enforcement responsibilities with the Governor’s Task Force on Illegal Gambling. These and many other law enforcement functions are ongoing responsibilities of Public Safety that we fulfill simultaneously to help keep Alabamians safe.
The law enforcement operations at VictoryLand and Country Crossing Jan. 29 were the result of months of undercover investigation, expert analysis, and meticulous planning on the part of law enforcement professionals with both Public Safety and the ABC Board. Through careful resource planning, safety on our highways was never compromised. I do not believe that anyone could question Public Safety’s commitment to highway and traffic safety following our 35 percent reduction in fatalities in the last three years.
DPS works to guard the public’s safety in every environment. We are adept at ensuring that we fulfill our responsibilities concurrently, and we have decades of experience doing just that. We operate from six divisions, with a breadth of services and level of expertise that is not duplicated by any other agency in Alabama. That is why we can send troopers to Mississippi after Katrina without compromising our mission at home. With large operations such as the FootWash, Talladega races, and Take Back Our Highways, we “fill the holes” with troopers from other divisions, and we supplement with a force of more than 70 reserve troopers. We don’t fulfill one duty at the expense of another.
It can be frustrating to endure ill-informed, ill-advised and unfair commentary about our state troopers. We can’t always publicly provide the information that can dispel that sort of criticism, because we are bound by and we uphold the rule of law. We are duty-bound to ensure the integrity of investigative and other law enforcement operations, and we hold the safety of the public and officer safety paramount. I would add that I have worked with law enforcement agencies in virtually every state and around the world, and I have never worked with more professional, capable or dedicated officers than Alabama’s state troopers. I know the people of Alabama share my pride and gratitude for their service.
Col. J. Christopher Murphy is director of the Alabama Department of Public Safety.