Combined police force being considered for Etowah County

By Dixon Hayes

ETOWAH COUNTY, AL (WBRC) - Etowah County has a Sheriff's Office and police departments in Gadsden, Rainbow City, Attalla, Southside, Glencoe, Hokes Bluff and Altoona.   But there is talk of all that changing radically.

Ever since an off-hand remark from Gadsden Councilmember Ben Reed during a council meeting, the idea of a metro police force covering much or all of the county is suddenly under serious discussion.

The mayor of Gadsden and Etowah County sheriff actually met over the idea, and even the district attorney has weighed in.  

"We're trying to spend the resources, the limited resources we've got in the county, the best that we can," says the county's district attorney, Jimmie Harp.  He points out the success of the county's Drug Enforcement Unit--which just this past week held a successful roundup--as well as that of the county's dive team, special response unit and one-of-a-kind arson task force.  All of those units comprise members from multiple law enforcement agencies.

Council member Ben Reed first brought up the idea during a council meeting, expressing concern that police officers could not answer a call quickly enough in his district due to being tied up on other calls.  Reed mentioned possibly bringing the sheriff into the situation.
"It wasn't that I planned it, it was just something that came about and it caught on, everybody said 'Wait, that's not a bad idea,'" says Reed.   He says response has been overwhelming positive, even from residents who contact him.

"When something happens to them, they want to know that they're going to be taken care of, I do.  Somebody's breaking in my house, I want to know if that policeman's going to be there pretty quick to help me out," says Reed.

A committee is working out details, like the roles of the current police chiefs in the cities, and whether the metro force would swallow just Gadsden or all the other surrounding suburbs like Attalla and Rainbow City.  Public input is also being sought.

Sheriff Todd Entrekin used the Drug Enforcement Unit and this week's Operation Quick Strike roundup as an example that the idea could work in the county.  "(The officers and deputies) work well together, they play well together.  It can work, but you know, there's a lot of stuff that's got to be done before we can put this together."

Harp also points out the idea is "a young, young young child that we're looking at right now," but Reed says he'd like to see the idea come to be as quickly as this time next year.

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