Residents stand behind chief, officers

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Stephanie Snodgrass | The Brewton Standard More than 20 residents gathered to show their support for the Castleberry Police Department Monday.

Stephanie Snodgrass | The Brewton Standard
More than 20 residents gathered to show their support for the Castleberry Police Department Monday.

“We love our police” was the message Monday outside Castleberry town hall and police department as more than 20 residents gathered to show their support.

Mary Moncrease, who led the group, said they had a number of demands, including not “destroying the police department.” They also were asking for the removal of Castleberry Mayor Henry “Buddy” Kirksey, she said.

A printed handout distributed at town hall stated Kirsey had put into place “policies having a negative impact on the citizens of Castleberry” by:

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• not allowing Christmas decorations;

• putting (sic) one office employee against another;

• having a negative work environment;

• moving funds without council approval; and,

• a proposed increase to water rates.

“Things can’t go long like this,” Moncrease said. “We’re not going to have it.”

Resident Minnie Jackson said she “stands behind her department.”

“The mayor, he wants to get rid of the police department,” Jackson said. “We need a force here. What about the drug dealers and rapists? That’s what will happen if we don’t have a force here.”

Councilwoman Lola Parker also attended the gathering.

“I love my police department; that’s all I’m going to say,” Parker said.

Castleberry Police Chief Tracey Hawsey, his department and town officials are under fire for allegedly implementing an ordinance levying a $500 vehicle and/or conveyance impound fee on those arrested for drug crimes, failure to give accused due process and failure to follow the state’s forfeiture laws. A 13-count, seven-plaintiff civil lawsuit was filed Friday in Conecuh County.

Hawsey, a former Conecuh County Sheriff, has publically tendered his resignation effective March 9; however, he said he may rescind it. He has served as Castleberry chief for the last three-and-a-half years.

“The council hasn’t accepted (the resignation) yet,” he said. “I told the mayor I feel like I should see this (lawsuit) through.”

The department, which provides services to an estimated 650 residents, is heavily staffed with a full-time chief, three full-time officers, one part-time officer, three full-time dispatchers, one part-time dispatcher, a full-time municipal court clerk and one part-time court clerk assistant.

By contrast, the town employs a full-time city clerk, part-time assistant, a full-time water maintenance work and a contract meter reader.

The police department is funded through the town court system, Hawsey said. He said the impound ordinance was established to deter drug use in the town.

“Now, you just about have to be DNA-kin to someone to buy drugs from them,” Hawsey said. “I know we are extra aggressive (on the drug problem), and we put major pressure on the drug community. I’m not being arrogant. I’m passionate about it.”

Hawsey said the town’s impound ordinance is modeled after the Covington County town of River Falls. There, a part-time chief, one full-time officer and two part-time officers provide services for 500 residents.

Those in River Falls who are assessed the $250 fee have the option of paying by cash, check, money order or by credit card in person or by mail. Online payment options are also available.

Hawsey declined to comment further on the suit.

“On the advice of our town attorney, I’m not going to comment on particulars,” he said; however, he did say that in 2016, the department logged 79 drug arrests, not including the suit plaintiffs.

“And those were drugs that were going to Deer Range, Sandcut and Evergreen that didn’t make it,” he said.

“The things that have been said, that I’ve heard are hurtful. People have a right to sue, but to hear ‘crooked?’ Our department works extremely hard and is exceptionally dedicated. We get a bad reputation, but we’re honest cops.”

The Alverson Law Firm of Andalusia is representing the Town of Castleberry in the civil complaint.