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Castleberry PD striving to improve public image

Castleberry Police is working hard to change its public image, Chief Troy Staley said.

Recent media reports continue to discuss a 13-count, seven-plaintiff suit filed in Conecuh County in February is alleging illegal practices by former Castleberry Police Chief Tracey Hawsey, his employees and former town officials. Those reports continue to paint the town “in a bad light,” Staley said.

The suit alleges Hawsey and his officers acted as “a roadside judge, jury and executioner” by imposing a $500 vehicle and/or conveyance impound fee on those arrested for drug crimes, as well as the illegal confiscation of more than $5,550 in cash. The suit claims that Hawsey, his employees and town officials failed to give the accused due process or follow the state’s forfeiture laws. There has been no progress on the suit since it was filed.

Hawsey has since resigned, and Staley was appointed as chief in March. Since then, he and his small department have worked to bring safety to the small community.

“I feel like Castleberry is getting the bad end of the stick,” Staley said. “We have a good group of people working here and a good community to work for and be a part of. It’s unfair to people who are working there now and the community to have such negative spotlight put on them.”

Staley, speaking of the community’s reputation as a “speed trap,” said he hasn’t received any complaints about the department’s day-to-day operations. The town’s major through-fare, U.S. Hwy. 31, sees between 300-500 cars per day, Staley said.

“With that said, there are between 10 to 20 traffic stops a day – if that many,” he said. “When you look at the math, that’s less than 1 percent.

“Above all, it’s about the safety of our citizens,” he said. “If someone is running 20 miles-per-hour over a double hill where roads intersect, you’re probably going to get a ticket. We have to prioritize life. I’ve worked in numerous municipalities, I don’t know where you’d get cut a break running that fast over the speed limit.”

And as for the town “raking in the money,” that’s not the case, Staley said. When writing a speeding ticket, the majority of revenue collected is remitted to the state, he said.

“And while the town operates its own municipal court system, all municipalities in Alabama keep only about $12 or so from each speeding issued.

“So, the accusation that Castleberry is making a fortune is false by any means,” Stanley said.

Currently the department employs three fulltime officers, including Staley, and one part time officer. Services are provided seven days a week, from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m. on week days and midnight on the weekend.

“Our community is happy, I think, and satisfied right now with the police department and the way we conduct business,” he said. “Most of the interaction we have is not with our citizens. You do have some problems within, every community does. We’re there to protect them. Most members want a greater police presence than we’re able to provide them.”

As for the practice of imposing vehicle fees and impounding vehicles after traffic stops, that stopped nearly a year ago, Staley said.

“We try to treat everyone fair,” he said. “The truth to the matter is this is a whole new administration – both on the council and in our department. Now, there’s this new spin on things, but no one has ever taken the time to ask us about how we feel about the situation. It’s unfair to the people there now who are working so hard for the town of Castleberry.”