Whatever you do – stay out of Brookside Alabama

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Months of research and dozens of interviews by AL.com found that Brookside’s finances are rocket-fueled by tickets and aggressive policing. In a two-year period between 2018 and 2020 Brookside revenues from fines and forfeitures soared more than 640 percent and now make up half the city’s total income.

And the police chief has called for more.

The town of 1,253 just north of Birmingham reported just 55 serious crimes to the state in the entire eight year period between 2011 and 2018 – none of them homicide or rape. But in 2018 it began building a police empire, hiring more and more officers to blanket its six miles of roads and mile-and-a-half jurisdiction on Interstate 22.

By 2020 Brookside made more misdemeanor arrests than it has residents. It went from towing 50 vehicles in 2018 to 789 in 2020 – each carrying fines. That’s a 1,478% increase, with 1.7 tows for every household in town.

When Jones was hired as chief in 2018, he was the only full-time police officer, he said in sworn testimony for a lawsuit filed against him and the city. By last summer, he said in a deposition, Brookside had hired eight additional full-time officers and several part-timers.

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Asked in December how many officers were on staff, he refused to say, citing “security” concerns, though police staff sizes are reported regularly to the government for public consumption.

A department of nine officers in a 1,253-person town is far larger than average. Across the country, the average size of a force is one officer for every 588 residents, according to a Governing Magazine study that examined federal statistics.

Last year, based on Jones’ testimony, Brookside had at least one officer for every 144 residents.

Then this month the Brookside department posted on Facebook that it had hired six more officers “in an effort to expand our dedication and commitment to provide superior community service & protection.”

In 2018, when the town had one full-time police officer and a few part-timers, it reported no serious crimes to the Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center. Brookside Police did patrol the 1.5-mile stretch of Interstate 22 within their jurisdiction and wrote tickets that brought in $82,467 in fines. That contributed a 14% chunk of the city’s total income, a number that would be considered high in much of America.

But Brookside revenues from fines and forfeitures soared after that, and the town’s law-enforcement goals — and its reputation — changed.

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By 2020 officers in the sleepy town were undergoing SWAT training and dressing in riot gear, even as the city continued with only a volunteer fire department. It parked a riot control vehicle — townspeople call it a tank — outside the municipal complex and community center. Traffic tickets, and criminalizing those who passed through, became the city’s leading industry.

www.al.com/news/2022/01/police-in-this-tiny-alabama-town-suck-drivers-into-legal-black-hole.html

 

AC

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