Friday, March 27, 2015

The Role of Off-Duty Police?

We've received several comments concerning police officers working in a private setting while wearing their uniforms. For those who can not only read, but read with some degree of comprehension and understanding, you will note that we asked in a previous blog if the Muscle Shoals Police who patrol the Highland Park Baptist Church area could be such hired guns. Those who have contacted us say this is the case.

We're pretty sure this is also the case with other events in the area pertaining to sports, the university, etc. It does raise some questions of liability; however, we hope none of the officers will ever feel the need to shoot anyone while patrolling a church service or similar event. The following is an interesting read:


We see Alabama's latest redistricting has come under review by a higher court. We don't envy those who must decide new lines of demarcation, but certainly Lauderdale County has suffered under this latest plan. It's sad when the most competent representative for District I is Marcel Black.


This blog is always happy to post guest editorials. Some we edit slightly, as we did one which we posted yesterday. Some we agree with totally; some we disagree with totally; some we have no opinion on or publicly question.

If you disagree with one of our guest editorials, feel free to offer a rebuttal in any way you wish. Do not feel free to criticize us for posting it or to misstate publicly we wrote the said guest blog. Yes, we're sure this little statement will do a lot of good. Sighhhhh.


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Update on HPBC/City of Muscle Shoals

Joe Pampinto, Neal Willis, Jim Holland, Mike Lockhart, Allen Noles, Mayor David Bradford

The reader (a citizen of Muscle Shoals) who originally broached this subject with us has sent an update. We have edited to remove any possible libelous comments:

Forgot to mention that Mayor “Donnatello” Bradford is also a member of HPBC - the Highly Political Baptist Church. According to a member at HPBC, the following statement was made from the pulpit on the opening Sunday by the Pastor Bret Pitman,

“We’d like to offer special thanks to Councilman Joe Pampinto for his help in handling all the city affairs related to the construction of this new building. Since the other 4 councilmen and Mayor are members here, they felt in order to avoid any perception of a conflict of interest, that Mr. Pampinto, who is not a member here, would be the City representative for this project. Joe couldn’t be with us today because he had a previous engagement out of town”.

The HPBC Security, aka MSC citizen paid police, are in full uniform and taxpayer vehicles on any given day as they direct traffic for the mayor, city councilmen, family and friends as they leave the political rally at HPBC.

Maybe Grace Life Church is no longer favored now that HPBC has a large arena for use (once again, school superintendent and anyone wanting to climb the ladder attends HPBC as well).

Note: HPBC "rented" MS high school auditorium for special occasions and during the final stages of construction of their new concert hall. In addition to the agreement to "Pay Rent", there was to be a new sound system installed at the H.S. Auditorium at HPBC expense. Sources inside MSCS question if the good church fulfilled all - OR ANY - of the Board approved contract. (we highly doubt it, given the Rubber Stamping Board)

Another fine example of separation of church and state? Or, in MSC, a fine example of separation of government jobs and family?


Only one comment here: The church has a concert hall? Really, a concert hall? We Googled this phenomenon, but couldn't seem to pin down anything relevant to a new building hosting concerts. We're going to refrain from any more comments here, but would like to hear a rationale for this. Also any updates on the gift to Muscle Shoals High School? Surely the HPBC would keep its word...


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Sheffield Police Department Update

Chief Greg Ray
We recently blogged on Sheffield police officers leaving the department like fleas evacuating a dead coyote. At that time we mentioned how incomprehensible it was that anyone in city government would appoint/promote an individual in the force without first consulting Chief Greg Ray. We've been sent a very interesting communication from someone we trust; however, we are offering this strictly in the FWIW department. Do we believe every word? Yes, we do.

From an informed source:

Per a confidential source inside the Sheffield PD: 8 more Sheffield police officers are leaving the department in the near future. This is allegedly in response to a 'secret deal' made between the Mayor, city council and former interim police chief and current Public Safety Director, Dewey King, and current Police Chief Greg Ray.

Several months ago Chief Ray was unceremoniously terminated, apparently without the benefit of due process. During Chief Ray's short-lived termination, Sheffield Fire Chief, Dewey King, was appointed Interim Police Chief. This appointment was made in spite of King's lack of law enforcement training and experience. In the following months, Chief Ray appealed his termination and won his position back....but at a 'cost'.

This 'cost' was Chief Ray being reappointed as 'Chief' in name only. Chief Ray retains his badge, car, and title, but that is all. According to sources inside Sheffield's police department, Chief Ray has ZERO 'say' in any decisions affecting the department, such as budget, training, purchases and promotions. All such decisions formerly made by Chief Ray are now made by Dewey King.


According to a TimesDaily report, there are seven officers involved in an action against the Sheffield Civil Service Board. If eight are leaving, we assume most are part of this current action. The citizens of Sheffield are the ones to suffer.


For quite some time, we have published comments from a friend in an area adjoining the Shoals. We asked him to pick a blogging moniker so we could give him proper credit, but he has not yet chosen one. He has sent us a very interesting take on this situation in Sheffield (or similar ones); since he hasn't selected a name, we're going to dub him "L. Stone." His first official post:

One sign of trouble in a police department is when new officers leave as soon as their period of service related to going to the police academy end. Police departments generally pay officers to go to the police academy, but in exchange they agree to serve a certain period before leaving. If they leave early they have to pay back some or all of what they received to go to the academy.

Someone once joked about a department over here that all of the officers were either there for less than three or more than fifteen years, meaning that it had got so bad that nobody that didn't already have a well established position stayed any longer than necessary.

This is often the way police departments with restricted budgets keep officers. They recruit new people and send them to the academy, knowing they will have them for a few years. For someone wanting to be a policeman it's analogous to joining the Army to get a college education. A sign of a good department is when they send people to the academy and they stay on years after their obligation is over.


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Is Highly Political Baptist Church Highly Favored?

Old Highland Park Church Building

Today we bring you two or three tidbits about the City of Muscle Shoals and its ongoing affiliation with Highland Park Baptist Church. Some months ago, when the Highland Park congregation moved to its new home, a reader sent us photos of the Muscle Shoals Fire Department hosing the mud off the recently completed parking lot. We chose not to address it since we felt fairly sure the city would claim that it was a fire-fighting exercise.

However, this week we've been asked about a zoning hearing that is about to take place. The Muscle Shoals City Council is voting on changing the planning designation of the former building from R-3 to B-2. Obviously, much business has sprung up around the building since its construction and rezoning may be indicated. It would certainly make the site easier to market...and bring in much more revenue.

The problem pointed out to us by a reader is that of the five council members who will be voting, all but one are members of the Highland Park congregation--hence, its often being referred to as the "Highly Political Baptist Church." How can the church members abstain? Joe Pampinto does not in himself constitute a quorum.


A second message from a reader has asked us:

Have you ever tried to go north on Wilson Dam Road on Sunday morning when the MSC Police are stopping traffic to let the councilmen and their families, Praise and Worship performers, and fellow bench warmers are leaving church? Do they provide police traffic control for all the other churches?

That's certainly an interesting question. Perhaps the church pays for off-duty officers? We know that Woodmont Baptist in Florence uses members to direct traffic, and the practice has been criticized as being unofficial and possibly the grounds for a lawsuit if anyone is injured due to this practice.

Could Woodmont build an overhead walkway ala Park Place? We have no idea of the legalities involved.

In other words, welcome to the clash of small town politics and big town traffic.


Monday, March 23, 2015

Four Officers Desert Sheffield Police for Colbert County

We almost headed today's blog "Just How Many Lieutenants Does Your Police Force Have," but decided our current title better served the purpose. We know that the City of Russellville has a problem keeping officers, but apparently Sheffield isn't far behind. Four officers have recently left Sheffield to work for Colbert Sheriff Frank Williamson. Why?

People usually change jobs for better pay or better treatment or both. We're pretty sure in Russellville the answer is "both." Now Sheffield has joined the ranks of forces where employees are deserting rapidly. Sources within the department say that low pay isn't the only factor. Some are privately blaming the relatively new public safety director Dewey King for the decrease in morale.

For those who came in late, Dewey King was the Sheffield fire chief who assumed the position of acting police chief when Greg Ray was on leave due to problems with the city council. When Ray returned, King was appointed public safety director.

In late February, approximately seven officers under the umbrella of Rodney Rippey filed a grievance against the department; the grievance was based mainly on the non-advertisement of new job openings. When Huntsville television station WAFF contacted King, he offered an interesting comment.

From WAFF: We also talked to the Director of Public Safety, Dewey King, on the phone, who said he was too busy Monday to discuss the matter.

We're going to add that no matter how well deserved a promotion/job change may be, it is incomprehensible that the Sheffield City Council announced the promotion of a city code enforcement officer to a position within the department before they informed Chief Ray.


So what about the lieutenants in the Sheffield force? Apparently, a promotion is currently the only way to bring about a raise in pay. Well, it does look good on a resume'.


If you love interesting comments, we have a second one to offer you. From Athens State political science professor Jess Brown: When I talk to Democratic activists today, they believe they still have a message; they just don’t have the money to get it out. I believe they are delusional.


In the same ol' same ol' department, we just noticed the TimesDaily's online state news section today. It seems we're still living in Alaskabama:

Does anyone at the TD pay attention? If you don't subscribe, do you really want to use up one of your ten free articles clicking on Alaska news by mistake?


Sunday, March 22, 2015

John Clark Burns Jr. Faces April 28th Court Date

Lauderdale County Mug Shot
From the Wayne County News:

On Tuesday, February 27, 2015 John Clark Burns, Jr. 26 of Florence, AL was booked into Wayne County Jail when he turned himself in on a warrant issued for his arrest. He has bonded out on a $10,000.00 bond. Burns has been charged with vehicular homicide in connection with an accident in the early hours of September 9, 2013 when, according to a THP report, he was traveling too fast to safely maneuver a sharp curve and traveled up an embankment and into the Old Darby Store in Cypress Inn. His girlfriend, Brittany M. Underwood of Tuscumbia died in the crash and subsequent fire that ignited after the impact. Burns was injured and air flighted to Vanderbilt Medical Center. According to an article in the Times Daily, Brittany’s family has filed a $5,000,000.00 law suit against a Florence nightclub for serving a visibly intoxicated person and letting him leave without offering alternative transportation. The outcome of the case is still pending. Before the fatal accident, Burns had been arrested for DUI. The preliminary hearing for Burns is scheduled for Tuesday, April 28, 2015 in General Sessions Court at the Wayne County Criminal Justice Center.


In Tennessee, Vehicular Homicide is codified as: 

(a)  Vehicular homicide is the reckless killing of another by the operation of an automobile, airplane, motorboat or other motor vehicle, as the proximate result of:
     (1)  Conduct creating a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury to a person;
     (2)  The driver's intoxication, as set forth in § 55-10-401. For the purposes of this section, “intoxication” includes alcohol intoxication as defined by § 55-10-408, drug intoxication, or both; or
     (3)  As the proximate result of conduct constituting the offense of drag racing as prohibited by title 55, chapter 10, part 5.
(b)  (1)  Vehicular homicide under subsection (a)(1) or (a)(3) is a Class C felony.
     (2)  Vehicular homicide under subsection (a)(2) is a Class B felony.
If convicted, the sentence may range from eight to 60 years, depending upon the defendant's previous record.


We've been asked if we have an update on the Underwoods' lawsuit against On the Rocks, the Court Street bar where Burns was alleged to be drinking immediately preceding the accident.  We do not.


Saturday, March 21, 2015

David Walter Shipper

Palau is a former U.S. Territory with only 20,000 inhabitants. The small island in Micronesia is loosely connected with the U.S., but is self-governing. We mentioned at the time of the Paris attacks that we had a daily reader in the South Pacific, but we had no clue as to the reader's identity.

Unfortunately, now we do. David Walter Shipper, 45, was a Florence native and Coffee High School graduate currently living in Palau where he both worked for the country's president and had a private practice. Last Sunday, David complained of chest pains after a game of football (soccer). He was rushed to a hospital, but had passed away.

Everything we have read about David has been positive. It's our loss that we never had the opportunity to meet David. We know his family and friends are hurting. All our sympathies to those who feel his passsing so greatly.