Walker County having to pick up slack after Sipsey dissolved pol - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

Walker County having to pick up slack after Sipsey dissolved police department

(Source: Hannah Ward/WBRC) (Source: Hannah Ward/WBRC)

Days after being shut down, Sipsey's Mayor said he's got "better things to worry about than the city's police department.”

Walker County Sheriff’s Office has no choice but to expand their territory to cover Sipsey because no calls are getting answered at the Sipsey Police Department.

Now, Sipsey 911 calls are redirecting to the Walker County Sheriff’s Office. But Sheriff James Underwood says responding isn't all that easy.

“With three vehicles on the road, you stay extremely busy. We’re shorthanded, we have 700 miles to cover. Sometimes our guys can be a long ways away,” Sheriff Underwood explains.

Sheriff Underwood says until then, they will do the best they can with the resources that are available.

Sipsey Mayor Jerry Sadler didn't want to talk on camera, but provided the following statement:

There has been much misinformation being published and spread regarding the Sipsey Volunteer Fire Department and the Sipsey Police Department. The Office of the Mayor releases this statement to help clear any confusion. Misrepresentations were made on social media and to the public about the town “shutting down” the Volunteer Fire Department. That is untrue. The Fire Department was not closed. The Mayor terminated a couple members of the Fire Department and named an interim chief, but again, there was no “shut down” of the Fire Department.

Secondly, there have been many concerns, complaints, and issues brought by citizens to several members of the town government, including the Mayor, regarding the Reserve Officers of the Police Department. These questions/concerns/complaints are and were in regard to the requirements to be reserve officers for the Town, their training, lack of direct supervision, their authority to make stops, arrests, patrol, carry guns, write tickets, and to conduct other regular police work. Alabama law under Code Section 11-43-210 states the authority and duties of reserve officers.  The Town Council has not instituted an ordinance or regulation allowing Reserve Officers to carry firearms while acting in their scope as representatives of the Town.  The Town's attorney expressed and warned of some major liability issues regarding the operation of the Reserve Program.  The Mayor, due to complaints and municipal liability concerns, suspended the Reserve Program until it could be discussed at length at the next Town Council meeting.  This suspension was verbally made to the Chief of Police last Friday night and again on Tuesday night.  Finally, after several days of non-compliance with the Mayor's notice of verbal suspension, the Mayor posted notice of the suspension on the Police Department's door on Wednesday, January 31st.   

On Wednesday, January 31st, the Mayor placed the Chief of Police on administrative leave, with pay, pending a decision of termination by the Council.  The reasons for the Chief being placed on administrative leave will not be discussed in this forum out of respect for the Officer and his family. 

Prior to placing the Chief on administrative leave, the Mayor coordinated police protection of the Town with the Walker County Sheriff’s Department and E-911. The Walker County Sheriff’s Department is providing and will be providing police protection to our community just as it did prior to the Chief’s hiring last year.  The Mayor would like to thank Sheriff Jim Underwood for the Sheriff Deputies' continued police presence for the safety of the residents and for ensuring continued cooperation.  As many know, the Sheriff's Department continued to provide police protection throughout this past year and we appreciate their commitment to continue doing so.  

 The welfare and safety of the community is one of the most important issues concerning municipal government and the Mayor deemed it important for the citizens to know what has transpired through this release. 

On a different note, many citizens attended an event funded by the Walker Area Community Foundation on Tuesday, January 30th for the betterment of our Town.  The Community Foundation has paid a strategist from the Auburn Rural Studio to get ideas and aspirations from community members about what they want regarding the Town.  The strategist went away with many ideas and she will come back later this year with a plan.  Things such as more river access, campgrounds, lodging for fishermen and others, aesthetics of the Town, a café, and revitalization of historical structures were discussed.  The more people that get involved, the better chance these things can happen.  We have one of the best assets in Alabama being the Sipsey River and the trout fishing it provides.  I want to capitalize on it!  We also need help with our ball park so that children can have better recreation.  Anyone with ideas or simply the desire to help, please get involved.  Call Town Hall and speak with Mayor Saddler at (205) 648-5777.

Conswayla Scott lives in Sipsey and says the mayor is right about the town's police. Other people think the same.

“They are always like y'all's police. They’re crazy, they’re always pulling people over or they always got a roadblock or they’re always this, they’re always that,” Scott says.

We tried to talk with other people in Sipsey, but they all feared repercussions if they said what they really thought.

Sipsey Police Chief Mareshah Moses says he's writing a letter to the council to request a hearing. No word yet on when that hearing would take place.

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