Council discusses building up police department

By LEA RIZZO
Posted 3/10/18

DORA — At Thursday night's Dora City Council meeting, council members and the mayor discussed recruiting and retaining police officers."We've had problems retaining policemen," Mayor Randy Stephens …

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Council discusses building up police department

Posted

DORA — At Thursday night's Dora City Council meeting, council members and the mayor discussed recruiting and retaining police officers.

"We've had problems retaining policemen," Mayor Randy Stephens said during the meeting. He then went on to cite three issues that have contributed to that problem, including the no step increases in the salary, no free family insurance coverage and the department not allowing every officer to take home a police car.

He added that the city has had a hard time recruiting officers.

Stephens then proposed sending Landon Brown to the police academy, with an agreement that once Brown has completed the 13 weeks of schooling, he would be under contract as a full-time police officer with the Dora Police Department for two years. If Brown leaves before the two years is up, he must repay the city the $6,000 it cost to send him through the academy.

"That covers his salary and the cost of the academy if he doesn't live up to his end of the agreement," Stephens explained. "I think [Brown] would do a good job. He's been a reserve policeman here, a volunteer fireman, a police dispatcher and jailer. I think we need to start training some young men to be policemen and at the same time, continue looking for others."

The agreement would be a legal document, drawn up under an attorney, that would be signed by both Brown and Stephens, as a representative of the City of Dora. After the two-year time period, Brown is free to seek employment elsewhere without having to pay anything back to the city.

"We're committing to investing $6,000 into his future ... and I'd like for him to commit to us, that he's going to work for us for two years," Stephens said.

He added that the Dora Police Department currently has seven positions and is down to five officers, but has received phone calls on two of the remaining five for recommendations to go to another department and been informed that a third officer may also leave. If all three were to leave, that would leave the police department with only the chief and sergeant remaining. 

"It's a dangerous world we live in and I feel like we need to do what we can to retain our police officers," Stephens said. He added that training Brown is considered an act of recruiting and, going forward, the city needs to focus on better retention rates amongst officers.

The council ultimately voted unanimously to send Brown to the police academy, put him on the police force full-time with a $10 an hour salary and then immediately move him to the same wages as the other officers upon his graduation from the academy, with the promise that Brown will remain with the city for two years or repay the $6,000.

Also, Jackie Parker, a member of the heritage council with the Walker Area Community Foundation, addressed the council about the Celebrating Our Communities exhibit that will be featuring memorabilia from Sumiton and Dora. 

The exhibit will be displayed at the Bankhead House and Heritage Center in Jasper, beginning March 20 and running through Sept. 14. An opening reception for the exhibit will be held on Tuesday, March 20, from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Bankhead House. The event is open and free to the public.

"I think you're going to be surprised when you get there," Parker told the council and meeting attendees. "It's things that you've never seen before. It's the history of Sumiton and Dora."

Among other items, those that have been loaned to the exhibit include paintings of the old depot, a flair gun from the Civil War and an Franklin D. Roosevelt New Deal clock.

She also bragged about the involvement that has been seen from residents of East Walker, saying, "Dora alone has had 43 participants" to loan items to the exhibit.

The Bankhead House is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the third Saturday of each month.

In other business, council members during Thursday's meeting:

• voted to begin immediately paying park director Rodney Smithers a monthly stipend of $300 to cover the expenses they incur of traveling to league meetings.

Smithers and his wife Terri "are doing a good job and I'd like to see them" be recognized for that, Stephens said. "If the money wasn't there, we wouldn't do it. But you two have shown that the park can make money and cover its own expenses, and I'd like to give a little bit of that back to you."

Councilman Marion Combs, who made the motion to approve the stipend, also complimented Smithers and his wife, saying they're doing a great job, the park funds are up and he appreciates the work they're doing.

• approved the purchase of a 1998 Dodge 3500 truck for the street department. It has 44,000 miles on it, along with a brand new set of tires, new breaks and a utility bed. Although the initial asking price from the Curry Fire Department was $5,000, Stephens said he made them an offer of $4,500, pending approval from the council, which the department accepted. 

"It's definitely worth that price and [Street Department Head Jeremy Hicks] and his guys could use it," Stephens said.