All three candidates are veteran officers and are presently employed by the department. Interviewing for the position were interim Chief Doug Wesson, Lt. Tommy Wallace, and Sgt. Rick McClelland.
The position came open with the sudden resignation of former chief Shane Burnette April 30. Burnette had served as chief since 2008 and was reappointed November 2012.
According to the questions the candidates fielded from the council it became apparent the council’s concerns centered around two primary issues – the department’s relationship with local citizens and concern for the number of burglaries the community has experienced in the last year.
Wallace was the first to address the council and said he entered law enforcement in 1980 with the Sylacauga Police Department. He advanced to sergeant in three years, served with the K-9 unit and served as a night supervisor for six years.
Wallace left the department for a position with Allen Oil Company where he served as a supervisor for a chain of convenience stores owned by the company. After owning and operating one of the convenience stores, Wallace sold it so he could be a caregiver for his ailing father.
After his father died Wallace returned to law enforcement and joined the Childersburg department and has served in the department 10 years.
If selected Wallace said he would bring to the position years of law enforcement and supervisory experience along with his years with the Childersburg department.
McClelland said he has 20 years of law enforcement experience, the last two years with the Childersburg department. He is also an attorney with a practice in Columbiana but said the position as police chief is a full-time job.
“There is no way to be administrator and continue with law firm,” McClelland said.
When asked him why he wanted to be chief, McClelland responded, “I feel like I have a lot to offer. Experience and education, and I have a good rapport with people and other officers. I have a great work ethic, and will work diligently to get changes done.”
Long-time resident Doug Wesson was the third candidate interviewed. Wesson was appointed interim chief after Burnette resigned.
“I lived in Childersburg all my life and affiliated with Childersburg Police Department since 1973,” Wesson said. “I was the first police officer from Childersburg to attend academy and I graduated in August 1973.
Wesson spent 30 years with Kimberly Clark and served a brief stint with the Talladega County’s Sheriff’s office.
“I’ve always tried to do the right thing ethically and have honored the badge,” Wesson said.
Councilmen Billy Lester, Ralph Rich, and Jimmy Payne each presented their concern for the department to improve their relationship with local citizens. One remedy they all agreed upon was for officers to get to know the local residents better.
Payne said he’d like to see the chief and the officers walking up down the streets so people and businesses get to know them.
Lester said local officers don’t know local citizens unless they stopped them on U.S. 280.
McClellan said one goal he has is to create a department people can look up to, not be afraid of, not talking bad about. He said officers need to get out and meet people, and officers that enjoy their job.
Wesson said one way to improve community relations is to treat people the same regardless of color or ethnic background.
“You’ve got to know people and want people to know you and trust you,” Wesson said. “I’ve been working on public relations.”
McClellan suggested an important way to improve community relations is by starting with the young while they are in school.
Regardless of who becomes chief another issue pressing the minds of the council is the spate of burglaries the past year.
Like many smaller towns and communities in the southeast, Childersburg has been victimized by both business and residential burglaries.
“It’s a supervision issue,” Wallace said. “Officers are capable they just need supervision. They’re not doing what they should be doing.”
Wallace also said that merchants may not realize not be aware there is a six-minute delay between the time an alarm goes off and the alarm center’s dispatch contacts central dispatch.
Wesson said there have been improvements in the rate of burglaries while he has served as interim.
Rich said he has seen more patrolling. “That’s a good sign,” he said.
Each candidate also presented their own goals each expressing their desire to see the Childersburg department become one of the best in the county.
“We need a department Talladega County can be proud of and we can have that,” McClelland said.
Wesson said his goal is for the department to be the best department in Talladega County and one way to achieve that is to hold officers accountable.
Contact Mark Ledbetter at firstname.lastname@example.org