Residents express concerns about safety at meeting

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PARRISH — Citizens, including a council member and a dispatcher, voiced their concerns about the Parrish council's decision to suspend police dispatch and jail services on July 29 during Monday's meeting.

“I’m so disappointed because we know our officers better than anyone,” said Parrish dispatcher Tiffany Sanford. “We know how they work and they know us by our voices. What’s going to happen if they call Cordova when something happens and nobody can come.”

Mayor Heather Hall reiterated several times in the meeting that the Parrish Police Department is not closing. 

The town has contracted with the city of Cordova for jail and dispatch services. Police coverage will continue to be the responsibility of the Parrish Police Department. The town will also continue to operate its own municipal court.

Parrish council member Bubba Cagle said a situation occurred on the Fourth of July involving his family in which a dispatcher at another department struggled to understand the directions on how to get to their location.

“They thought at one point we were in Carbon Hill,” Cagle said. “It took 40 minutes for an officer from the county sheriff’s office to get to us.”

Hall apologized to Cagle for the problem, but she said Parrish didn’t have an officer on duty that day, and dispatch calls were being routed through the Walker County Sheriff’s Office.

“We let our officers off in order to save overtime,” Hall said. “We are in a financial crunch, and we are trying everything we can to get out of it.”

Several citizens then asked Hall at what risk such decisions were being made.

“I understand your concern, but we looked back over a five-year period in which our officers had not responded to one call on the Fourth of July, so we let them off in order to save over 48 hours in overtime,” Hall said. “We could go 100 years and never have an incident, but then you have that one year when something does happen. So we have already explained to our officers they will be here on the Fourth of July from now on.”

Hall said Parrish had officers “on call” on the Fourth of July but for some reason no one was notified of the incident involving Cagle's family.

She said when Cordova starts dispatching for Parrish, those calls will be routed to a specific line, so the dispatcher will know it is a citizen from Parrish calling.

“You can say what you want about other dispatchers not knowing where you are, but we have dispatchers who currently work for our town who don’t know where some of our streets are because they're not from Parrish,” Hall said. “So dispatchers rely on you when you call on how to get to your location, or they rely on the police officers to know the location.”

Hall said at this time no calls have been routed through the Cordova dispatch office.

The incident call Cagle was referring to was routed through the Walker County Sheriff’s Office.

“We do not have 24/7 police coverage and haven’t had for the past six months now,” Hall said. “So any calls coming from the town of Parrish when we don’t have an officer or dispatcher on duty is currently being handled by the Walker County Sheriff’s Office.”