Brookside Police Department

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Brookside police seal.jpg

The Brookside Police Department is a professional law enforcement agency operated by the Town of Brookside out of Brookside Town Hall at 2711 Municipal Drive. Henry Irby, a former deputy chief of the Birmingham Police Department, is serving as interim chief.

When Mike Jones took over the department in 2018 he was the only full-time sworn officer on the department's payroll. He led the transition to full-time staffing that summer, with help from state and federal grant funding. By 2021 the department had eight additional full-time officers and several part-time officers. At some point it also acquired an armored truck, conditionally transferred to the department by the U.S. Department of Defense under a program managed by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, which it referred to as riot-control vehicle.

In January 2022 six more full-time officers were added, growing the roll to a peak of 14. The department added a reserve officer training program to expand its personnel capacity. In early 2021, Chief Jones referred to the department as employing "narcotics interdiction officers." The official wages for members of the department ranged from $12/hour for new recruits to $16/hour for Chief Jones.

Along with the increase in personnel, the department, which patrols a 1-1/2 mile stretch of Interstate 22, has seen a dramatic increase in traffic citations, vehicle seizures, and charges originating from car searches. Revenues from "fines and forfeitures" grew from $51,473 in 2017 to $610,307 in 2020, making up 49% of the city's municipal income. Processing the immense number of cases in Municipal Court has created long lines and parking shortages at the Town Hall.

With the exception of one marked patrol vehicle and the riot-control vehicle, all of Brookside's police vehicles were unmarked black SUVs with dark window tinting. Patrol officers wear plain gray clothing with no official insignia. Former officers claim that Jones told them that the state and federal grants used to reimburse their overtime mandated a quota of two "contacts" (traffic stops) per officer per hour. No such quota was part of the grant language.

The department's aggressive tactics have led to at least five civil lawsuits and have been criticized by members of the public and press, as well as by Jefferson County District Attorney Danny Carr. Jones resigned shortly after columnist John Archibald wrote a column about the department's practices. The Town of Brookside requested a compliance audit from the Alabama Peace Officers' Standards and Training Commission on January 26. Five more officers resigned on January 28. On January 31 Brookside's second highest-ranking officer, Lieutenant Bo Savelle, also resigned shortly after inquired about his past arrests for public intoxication, harassment, driving under the influence, public lewdness, possession of marijuana, and possession of drug paraphernalia in 2014 and 2019. Another officer, Deshawn Cook had been indicted for strangling his girlfriend in 2019, but the case was dismissed when she failed to appear in court. He was arrested again in April 2022 on a charge of forcible rape alleged to have taken place in May 2021.

On February 1 Brookside mayor Mike Bryan issued a statement announcing an independent investigation into allegations of racial profiling to be headed by Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Kenneth Simon, and publicizing his orders that all police vehicles be clearly marked and the armored truck returned to the state. The municipal court sessions scheduled for February 3 and 10 were postponed. Jefferson County Sheriff Mark Pettway and Alabama House District 83 Representative Juandalynn Givan scheduled a town hall meeting that night at the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office Training Center in Fultondale to hear from area residents whose rights may have been violated by Brookside police.

Henry Irby accepted the appointment to take over as interim chief in a mostly advisory capacity on February 11, and looked forward to the challenge of rebuilding trust for the department. On March 17 Jefferson County Circuit Court judge Shanta Owens dismissed 40 criminal charges against 11 defendants against whom the only evidence was testimony by Brookside Police officers on the grounds that they lacked credibility.

In October 2022, U.S. District Judge R. David Proctor allowed a lawsuit against the town of Brookside and three of its police officers to proceed, a rare ruling against officers who claimed they were protected from suit by qualified immunity because of the simple fact they held police jobs. By February 2023 at least 15 civil suits had been filed against city and police officials.

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