Department of Public Safety History: 1935-1990
"Gentlemen, if I have made a mistake, I'll soon correct that."
With these words, Gov. Bibb Graves introduced the charter members of the Alabama Highway Patrol on Jan. 10, 1936, to the public they were to serve. According to retired Capt. Charles O'Gwynn, one of those 74 officers who formed the nucleus of the state's fledgling Highway Patrol, Gov. Graves spoke these words in earnest. "He sure meant it; he stood by it," O'Gwynn remembered. "Your conduct must be exemplary in those days in order to stay on the patrol. I can remember men who misbehaved and they were gotten rid of quick-like."
Indeed, Gov. Graves had promised the state a highway patrol when campaigning for a second term in office. He had been a keen observer of the work of Alabama's two "highway officers," H.B. "Bill" Moody and C.M. Thorsen, during Gov. Benjamin Miller's administration. These two officers, working out of the State Highway Department, were charged with enforcing all Alabama highway and carrier laws statewide. Ten more highway officers were added during Gov. Miller's term; but Gov. Graves recognized the physical impossibility of the officers' tasks, as well as the need for a statewide law enforcement agency. Thus, on Dec. 5, 1935, Gov. Graves made good his campaign promise with the creation of the Alabama Highway Patrol.
On a cold, cloudy December day 50 years later, seven of the motorcycle-mounted charter Highway Patrol officers of 1935 were honored during a 50th Anniversary celebration of the Alabama Department of Public Safety. Luke English -- speaking for L.A. Bennett, Robert Chestnut, C.T. Donaldson, William Floyd Dyar, Allen Hargrove and W.J. Williams -- recalled those early years:
"I am really proud to be a charter member of the state troopers. And when we started out in 1935, we didn't have but 75 members [including Chief Walter K. McAdory], and most of us were riding motorcycles ... After I got broke up a couple of times, I decided to get in a car and stay there. We stayed down at the hotel for four week, about three or four weeks, in training -- waiting for our uniforms to come in. The uniforms were slow coming in, and we were very proud of them, and we got to be close together, very close. We got to be real good friends that way. And it's amazing how it's grown from 75 troopers to almost 1,200 (total employees) ... And of course, there's a little difference in the pay, too, now and back in those days. But back in those days, we had to have some groceries, and we were mighty glad to have the jobs."The Department of Public Safety has grown and prospered during its first 55 years, always in response to the changing needs of law enforcement. It has evolved from a fledgling force of motorcycle-mounted Highway Patrol officers to a multi-faceted, comprehensive, statewide law enforcement agency. By 1990, its five divisions -- Administrative, Alabama Bureau of Investigation, Driver License Highway Patrol and Service -- were staffed with some 1,200 arresting officer and civilian employees. Current Public Safety facilities, equipment, training, capabilities, compensation and personnel strength represent a radical departure from the early days of the Highway Patrol.
Gov. Graves chose Walter K. McAdory to serve as the first chief of the Highway Patrol. Serving under Chief McAdory were VanBuren Gilbert, Highway Patrol captain for north Alabama, and E. Potter Smith, captain for south Alabama. The first officers hired were the 12 original highway officers. Their ranks swelled to 74, chosen from a pool of applicants interviewed by McAdory, Gilbert and Smith. The three supervisors first considered experience in staffing the Highway Patrol. Some of the new officers were former sheriffs and police officers; many applicants had no prior law enforcement experience but had set out in pursuit of a career with the Highway Patrol. Applicants were rated according to ability, intellect, reputation and physical size. Training for charter members pales in comparison to that provided troopers in 1990. Still, the 74 officers spent 10 days at the Gay Teague Hotel in Montgomery, learning highway and criminal laws, first aid and the rules of the road. Then, as now, developing driving skills was critical, so each officer learned the art of riding motorcycles. In those early days, motorcycles were the constant companions of the Highway Patrol officers. Charter member Charles O'Gwynn remembered the words of Capt. Potter Smith, addressing his new officers: "He would very often tell us, 'Now boys, I know it's a very cold day out there, and it's a long day. If you get tired when night comes on, lie down by your motors and sleep a while, then get up and go to riding some more.'"
Retired Maj. C.S. Prier recalled Gov. Graves' contacting a friend, Zack Morris, about applying for a job with the Highway Patrol: "Governor told him, 'All of them are going to ride a motorcycle. You can ride a motorcycle, can't you?' 'No, sir, I can't learn.' He said, 'What's the matter, Zack? Haven't you got any guts?' He said, 'Yes, sir, governor. And I don't want them scattered up and down the highway.' So he was hired and was given an auto. They ordered about five autos and the rest of them were motorcycles."
Gov. Graves and Chief McAdory also emphasized conduct and deportment among their troops. They instructed the officers to act as gentlemen at all times and forbade drinking on the job. Gov. Graves warned the men that "any officer that takes a drink is off the patrol." He and Chief McAdory recognized that the Highway Patrol had to prove itself worthy to those it served, and they were intent on demonstrating to the public that their officers were more than strong-armed cops, that they were to protect and to serve and to make the public proud.
Although testing of drivers was unheard of in 1935, the first provision for driver licenses was mandated by the Legislature that year. Each driver was required to buy a license for 50 cents, and the proceeds were earmarked to pay for Highway Patrol equipment and salaries. In addition to a revenue-producing measure, the new law was counted on to help reduce highway accidents, a continuing concern of the Department of Public Safety.The new Highway Patrol officers began their missions in early 1936, after receiving their assignments throughout the state. By the end of the first nine months, the officers had logged 615,335 miles patrolling on motorcycles and 583,756 miles in automobiles. They inspected 8,951 vehicles for defective lights and brakes, issuing "courtesy cards" to call a motorist's attention to defects. They weighed more than 3,200 trucks and made some 7,000 arrests in enforcing Alabama's highway regulations. In addition, the officers began a continuing practice of assisting motorists, rendering aid to 5,269 that first year.
Charter member and former Director Bankhead Bates said Capt. Smith reinforced the early tradition of service to motorists: "He said, 'Now, by being helpful, I mean helpful. If you run across a stranded motorist and he's out of gas ... if you have to ride 50 miles, that's alright. You go get that man some gas and put it in his car. And then if he tries to pay you for that service, which he probably will want to give you a little tip, you tell him, "No thank you, you paid for that when you bought your driver license. That pays my salary, and you don't owe me anything." That is what is going to be your foundation on this Highway Patrol.' And that was the foundation of the Highway Patrol. That's what's built the reputation of the Alabama Highway Patrol -- being courteous to people."
Even in 1936, drunken driving was a concern of the Highway Patrol officers, enough of a concern that Gov. Graves specified that the officers should "get the drunks off the roads." Officers made 689 arrests for driving while intoxicated and 271 arrests for public drunkenness that first year. Major Bates recalled making one DWI arrest of a man driving a wagon pulled by a mule. "At that time, they had a little quirk in the law there," he said. "It didn't say operate a motor vehicle while intoxicated, it said a vehicle. So we charged that rascal with DWI and put him in county jail."
Highway Patrol officers also exercised their authority in other areas of law enforcement during their first months. They made four arrests for manslaughter, three for grand larceny, one for murder, two for assault with intent to murder and five for robbery. In addition, they recovered 60 stolen vehicles valued at more than $24,000. Capt. O'Gwynn said he and his partner, former Director Al Lingo, remembered making the patrol's first stolen auto case after stopping a driver for passing on a curve: "We stopped to give him a ticket, and Lingo, being a pretty good mechanic, when he looked for the motor number to put it on the arrest ticket, he saw the motor number had been tampered with. We pulled him on in to headquarters, and later we found out the car was stolen in Athens, Ga. So we had a federal case on our hands, transporting a stolen car. He was later indicted by a federal grand jury and sent to prison."
The Highway Patrol ended its first fiscal year in the black. Proceeds from driver license sales and fines collected -- both earmarked for patrol operations -- more than paid for salaries, equipment and other expenses. Earmarking of fines, forfeitures and driver license fees continued as the means of funding for 20 years until changes by act of the legislature during Col. W.V. "Bill" Lyerly's tenure as director. The act provided that the patrol be placed on an annual budget to be funded by the state biennially. Although the Highway Patrol -- later to be renamed the Department of Public Safety -- produced and continues to produce revenue for the state, its conception was that of a service agency to be funded through the state's General Fund.Throughout the 1930s, the Highway Patrol continued its growth Three years after its formation, it employed 135 officers who patrolled nearly 3 million miles. The Highway Patrol began a tradition of law enforcement expansion and evolution in response to changing needs among Alabamians.
An early manifestation of this tradition is found in a program aimed at training Alabama's young people in first aid and safe driving, the precursor of the department's Safety Education Unit. Then-Sgt. Charles O'Gwynn, one of two officers assigned to the program, was responsible for all counties south of the Shelby County line. "We generally ... had a kind of unwritten agreement, that Shelby County line would be our dividing line ... I took anything south," O'Gwynn said. "I can remember leaving out on a Sunday afternoon going from here to west Alabama, down to south Alabama, back over to east Alabama. It was rough. Be gone all week, sometimes longer than that." The two officers visited schools and communities, teaching short courses on first aid and safety, and organizing groups of young people to teach them to drive.
The Highway Patrol faced its first major organizational change in 1939, under Gov. Frank M. Dixon and Chief T. Weller Smith. Gov. Dixon approved a bill on March 8, 1939, redesignating the patrol the Alabama Department of Public Safety and giving Chief Smith the title of director of Public Safety. The new department had four divisions: Highway Patrol, Driver License, Accident Prevention Bureau, and Mechanical and Equipment. In addition to separating specific services of the department by division, the act prompted several significant changes.
T. Weller Smith began a new program of organizing, training and equipping the Highway Patrol Division. The most visible result of this program was the issuance of new white cars to patrol officers instead of the customary motorcycles. In addition, the uniforms took on a new appearance, a blue and gray reportedly selected by Alabama's First Lady. A further change, also of noticeable effect, was the awarding of statewide arrest powers to all officers. With the formation of the new department, its members, like other state employees, came under Alabama's merit system. In keeping with Smith's modernization of the department, officers were issued new weapons, including 12-gauge, 7-shot, semi-automatic, sawed-off shotguns; Thompson submachine guns; and .351 high-speed, long-range automatic rifles. All new recruits were trained thoroughly in handling the new weapons.
Gov. Dixon and Chief Smith also turned their attention to driver licensing. They believed that testing applicants before licensing would promote traffic safety and help in accident prevention. "Before letting the public use the roads with a machine that will kill somebody," said Smith, "they must be tested." The test was to determine an applicant's fitness to drive, knowledge of the rules of the road and attitude toward law and highway safety. Two-year driver licenses were introduced, and cumulative files on each licensed driver were established. This filing system created a central repository for all driving offenses to provide guidance in suspension and revocation decisions. The new system was a far cry from that of 1935, when Chief McAdory carried around revoked licenses in his hip pocket.
Despite his other accomplishments, Smith failed in one primary objective: the establishment of a statewide two-way radio system for the Highway Patrol Division. In concert with Gov. Dixon, the director worked to set up the radio network. Their efforts were in vain, for it was well into the 1940s before the application was approved.
Public Safety entered the 1940s with its reputation clearly established among the public. The news magazine ALABAMA, which advertised itself as "The News Magazine of the Deep South," said comments about Alabama's patrol were uniform --that of appreciation, of recognition for a job well done, and of service clearly rendered. It went on to point out that the patrol, with its new fleet of white cars and its slogan of "Drive Carefully, Save a Life," provided significant and valuable services in the daily promotion of traffic safety. Perhaps most importantly, the magazine noted that there were definite signs that the patrol was accomplishing its goal of making the public safety-conscious. Indeed, there were signs of increasing public response to campaigns to curb carelessness and recklessness on highways. In 1939, for example, officers made 2,000 fewer traffic arrests than the previous year, which indicated to many that safety measures had been effective.
The advent of World War II saw Director Smith on active duty with the military. Gov. Dixon named Capt. J.F. Brawner director of Public Safety, and Brawner set out to continue the tradition established by his predecessors. Again, however, the department failed to establish a two-way radio system. In 1942, the war effort's material needs were so pressing that the country could not spare, even for law enforcement purposes, the radio parts necessary for establishing the system. It was two years later, under Gov. Chauncey Sparks and Director VanBuren Gilbert, that the long-awaited two-way radio system became fully operational. The radio system, for the first time, allowed continuous contact between patrol cars and their stations. The impact of this was immediate. Officers saved miles of travel and were able to respond more promptly to accidents and other incidents. The radios gave officers the capability of immediately checking out suspected stolen vehicles, escaped prisoners and other law violators. Effective service range from car to station varied from 30 to 75 miles, while car-to-car communication ranged from 30 to 35 miles. Stations and mobile units were strategically located to provide coverage for 95 percent of the state, including all main traffic arteries. Only in rare instances was a patrol car left with no communication with a station. Three of the stations -- Birmingham, Montgomery and Mobile --operated 24 hours a day. The other 10 stations -- Anniston, Decatur, Demopolis, Dothan, Evergreen, Gadsden, Huntsville, Opelika, Selma and Tuscaloosa -- operated 16 hours a day at times when traffic was heaviest.
The new radio system required special training and personnel. To facilitate its operations, the department employed and trained as operators 13 men and 12 women. In addition, all patrol officers were required to hold restricted operator's permits issued by the Federal Communications Commission. Each was instructed in operating fixed and mobile radio equipment.
Gov. Sparks' influence was felt in other areas of department operations, as well. In 1943, by executive order, he abolished all existing ranks within the Highway Patrol and replaced them with two new classifications: senior highway patrolman and principal highway patrolman.A further change that year, effected by the legislature, required all drivers involved in motor vehicle accidents to submit written reports to Public Safety's director. The Accident Records Unit became responsible for seeing that requirements of the law were carried out. From the outset, the act's intended effect was accident prevention. If the Highway Patrol was to make any real progress in its efforts to decrease the number of traffic accidents, officers needed specific information on the nature and causes of traffic accidents. An offshoot of the act was a new department publication, ''Accident Facts,'' which was published annually to aid in traffic safety and education.
World events also influenced department operations. During World War II, the Investigation and Identification Division was called upon to assist the Selective Service System in locating military AWOLs. In fact, nearly 80 percent of the division's investigations during the 1942-43 fiscal year were conducted for the Army, Navy and Selective Service. Traditionally, it conducted investigations and made reports for the patrol, Governor's Office, Attorney General's Office and other state departments. I&I, as it was known, also assisted the Federal Bureau of Investigation, county sheriffs, circuit solicitors and municipalities, upon request. It frequently investigated charges of sabotage, espionage and the like, and maintained an ever-expanding file of fingerprints.
In 1945, the Department of Public Safety entered into the business of alcohol control, by executive order of Gov. Sparks. The order renamed the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board the Alcoholic Beverage Law Enforcement Division and placed it under the supervision of the Department of Public Safety. The order stipulated that its effect was not to limit or increase existing powers of each of the agencies involved. Rather, each agency was to retain its separate identity, with ultimate authority, however, resting with the Department of Public Safety. The order also empowered Public Safety's director to promulgate and enforce, upon approval by the governor, any procedures necessary for the operation of each division of the department. By June 1946, arrests made by the Alcoholic Beverage Law Enforcement Division averaged 400 a month. In that month alone, for example, two 1,500-gallon stills and three and one-half tons of illegal sugar were confiscated in Lee County. Ninety-one other stills were seized, in addition to 825 gallons of whiskey, 23 gallons of wine, 42 cases of illegal beer, 281 gallons of home brew and 35,815 gallons of mash.
The uniform of the Highway Patrol changed during the administration of Gov. Sparks. Since most of the officers performed their duties in automobiles, and few still used motorcycles in patrolling the state's highways, the old boots and breeches -- part of the standard uniform since 1935 --had outlived their usefulness. Gov. Sparks put the men into straight-legged trousers and regulation black shoes. Boots and boot breeches remained as special uniforms for those few officers still assigned to motorcycle duty.
The election of Gov. James E. "Big Jim" Folsom in 1947 meant a new director for Public Safety, J.D. "Jake" Mitchell. Shortly after Mitchell's appointment, Folsom embarked on a series of changes within the department. One of the first was changing the color of patrol cars from white to blue and gray.
Gov. Folsom then abolished the classifications of senior and principal highway patrolmen. In so doing, he reinstituted the rank system of captain, lieutenant, sergeant and corporal. A third, more basic change in the department was the enlarging of the Driver License Division. This was done because the years following World War II witnessed a tremendous increase in the number of driver license sales. And, for the first time, officers actually entered the cities of Alabama to check for driver licenses within city limits. These activities placed increasing demands on the Driver License Division. In 1947, for example, Driver License personnel issued 676,567 driver licenses and 70,990 learner permits. They also gave 176,223 driving examinations.
These efforts paralleled a nationwide campaign in the late 1940s, aimed at curtailing traffic accidents and deaths, which climbed following the war. Rural traffic fatalities showed a marked increase in Alabama, although the overall mileage death rate actually declined.
A further change effected by Gov. Folsom was the transference of the Alcoholic Beverage Law Enforcement Division from the department. Thus, Public Safety found itself removed from the business of alcohol enforcement.
Under Director Bankhead Bates, who succeeded Jake Mitchell, the Investigative and Identification Division was dissolved by executive order. The investigators previously assigned to the division were divided equally among the patrol districts. It was hoped that such a plan would result in closer coordination of the activities of the criminal investigators and uniformed patrol officers, and that together they would render more expedient and efficient service. This reorganization soon proved to be a failure, and in 1950, little more than one year later, Gov. Folsom reactivated the I&I Division. He did so by saying that for some time, various circuit solicitors, sheriffs and other state law enforcement officials insisted that the bureau be re-established within the department.
When Gordon Persons became governor in 1951, he made a businessman-farmer, J.M. McCullough, his director of Public Safety. McCullough's tenure with the department lasted only two months, before L.B. Sullivan was named his successor. Sullivan, at the time of his appointment, worked in the Governor's Office as Gov. Persons' special investigator. The new director turned his attention to Alabama's speed limit, believing that raising the speed limit on highways would reduce traffic fatalities. Due to his and others' efforts, a bill was passed increasing the speed limit from 45 to 60 miles per hour on Alabama highways. Sullivan subsequently pointed out that traffic deaths statewide fell from 826 in 1951, to 782 in 1952. Director Sullivan also turned his attention to department salaries and was able to increase pay schedules the first year of his term. As a result, the Highway Patrol chief made $400 to $500 a month, and patrolmen made $250 to $326 a month. Salary increases were now to be granted on an annual basis by steps, except in cases of meritorious service awards.Sullivan reorganized the Department of Public Safety twice. The first reorganization was effective August 16, 1951, and provided for four major divisions: Administrative, Highway Patrol, Driver License and Service. This reorganization was enacted into law under Act 585 of the 1953 Legislature, thereby providing a legislative mandate for the Department of Public Safety. The second reorganization added a fifth major division, Investigative and Identification.
The reorganization stipulated that the Administrative Division would be composed of a supply and communication unit, accounting bureau and personnel unit. The Highway Patrol Division comprised district posts and weight details. The state was divided into four geographical areas referred to as patrol districts. They were the Decatur, Birmingham, Montgomery and Evergreen districts. Each district was supervised by a Highway Patrol captain responsible for the personnel and activities of his district. Each district was further divided into posts. The Decatur District, for example, was divided into the Decatur, Florence, Gadsden, Hamilton and Huntsville posts. Each post was commanded by a Highway Patrol sergeant. The Driver License Division comprised driver improvement, financial responsibility and examining. The Service Division included personnel training, safety education and central records. The Investigative and Identification Division had two separate bureaus, investigation and identification.
One of the most important functions of the department, then as now, was effective training of its personnel. Under the reorganization, the Service Division chief was charged with developing training programs and assembling necessary materials to meet the department's needs regarding recruiting and in-service training. The task fell to N.W. Kimbrough. Under Sullivan's and Kimbrough's direction, the Highway Patrol and law enforcement in general made great strides. In December 1953, the Alabama Police Academy opened to receive its first class. This class, made up of municipal officers from throughout the state, arrived at Gunter Air Force Base to hear Chief Kimbrough's words: "...The purpose for establishing the Alabama Police Academy is to make training available to all law enforcement officers throughout the state. The object is to upgrade law enforcement at the municipal, county and state levels." During the days to come, the class learned from the ranks of an impressive faculty, its members drawn from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Treasury Department, state toxicologists, attorneys and judges, National Automobile Theft Bureau, Department of Revenue and Fire Marshal's Office. A driving force behind establishing the academy was the Alabama League of Municipalities, which sought to improve the caliber of officers statewide.
Chosen to lead the department in 1955 was William V. "Bill" Lyerly. Only 34 at the time of his appointment, Lyerly had served as assistant director and as the governor's executive secretary and chief of staff. Lyerly effected two major changes, both fiscal in nature. The first placed Public Safety on an annual budget to be appropriated by the legislature. The second was an act addressing retirement needs of arresting officers. Under the act, the state would match an officer's 7 percent contribution toward his retirement, and law enforcement officers could retire at age 56 with 20 years of service.
By the mid-'50s, Public Safety faced a monumental task in patrolling more than 62,000 miles of highway and monitoring more than 900,000 registered vehicles. In 1955, Alabama had 1 million licensed drivers, traveling an estimated 13 billion miles annually. That year, Highway Patrol officers traveled 6 million miles and investigated 7,435 motor vehicle accidents. They made 38,636 traffic arrests, assisted 9,000 motorists, checked more than 400,000 driver licenses and issued 29,964 warnings. Gov. Folsom realized the importance of gaining the public's cooperation in accident prevention. To this end, he initiated Highway Patrol "courtesy checks" in every county during the Fourth of July and Labor Day holidays. Officers stopped vehicles for a moment to give each driver a friendly safety message from Gov. Folsom. More than 300,000 pieces of safety-related literature were distributed to the motoring public during the two holidays.
In 1958, the department published a booklet, "Crash Facts," which summarized rural motor vehicle accidents. Its findings reflect continuing traffic concerns. The top five violations producing accidents were speeding, driving on the wrong side of the road, failure to yield, driving under the influence of alcohol and following too closely. The statistics, compiled nearly 30 years ago, told of the trauma, even then, inflicted by drunken drivers. In more than 30 percent of fatal accidents, drinking was listed as a prime causation.
Gov. John Patterson chose Floyd M. Mann to direct the Department of Public Safety in 1959. One of Col. Mann's first actions was to place the Alabama Police Academy under his direct supervision and to form the Alabama Police Law Enforcement Training Committee. This committee, composed of local, state and federal law enforcement officers, was to plan and supervise academic activities of the police academy. Through the recommendation of this group and with the full support of Gov. Patterson and the members of the legislature, the academy was moved from Gunter Air Force Base into a new, $300,000 facility at Federal Drive and Coliseum Boulevard. Following the academy's move to Craig Air Force Base in Selma in 1977, the facility continued its usefulness to the department as the site for the Montgomery District offices.
Col. Mann also effected two other changes of major significance during his tenure as director. First, a cadet program was adopted to recruit prospective patrol officers just below the age minimum and train them to become patrolmen. The cadets were assigned to duties that would expose them to their future jobs and were given a solid, hands-on education in the operations of the department. Second, the gradual increase in the responsibilities of the Highway Patrol's supervisors prompted re-establishment of the rank of corporal. Established in 1947 and phased out in 1952, corporals were to assist their sergeants, serve as assistant post commanders and make decisions in the sergeant's absence.
In 1963, the man who was to lead the State of Alabama for nearly two decades, George C. Wallace Jr., began his first term in the Governor's Office. Gov. Wallace chose Albert J. Lingo, a longtime member of the Highway Patrol, to direct the Department of Public Safety during the turbulent early '60s. These years were marked by marches and demonstrations that characterized the civil rights movement in the South. The names Birmingham and Selma were in the press daily and were known not only in Alabama, but also across America and throughout the world. Public Safety was called on time and time again in response to the demonstrations, and its officers sought to maintain order amid strife.In 1963, Alabama Highway Patrol officers became known as State Troopers. The new designation, ordered by Lingo and approved by Gov. Wallace, was meant to effect a better public understanding of the department and its varied duties. The officers had long since assumed the diverse duties of law enforcement, of which patrolling the state's highways was but one assignment. Further, Lingo said the change was made to ensure that if a situation occurred anywhere in Alabama requiring action by the governor, it should be well understood by the public that the governor was dispatching state law enforcement personnel to that area, and that they would have authority to handle any situation.
It was felt that year that the equipment, weapons and training materials of the troopers were in poor condition and short supply. Lingo noted in a memorandum to his division heads that by cannibalizing automobiles and other equipment, troopers would be able to operate for several more months. The department's budget, depleted by the expense of responding to many civil disorders, could not support purchases of new equipment and materials. Lingo also called attention to a chronic problem, the shortage of arresting officers. He blamed the current shortage on low salaries, overwork, poor equipment and the inability of the department to compensate its troopers fully for their travel expenses. To add to these problems, the communications system established around World War II was inadequate and obsolete.
At the prompting of Gov. Wallace, the 1963 Legislature took steps to remedy the situation by raising the cost of driver licenses and earmarking those funds for Public Safety. Immediate steps also were taken within the department to improve its operations and functions. All dangerous, obsolete or worn out vehicles were replaced systematically on the basis of need and availability. In those instances where vehicles were not needed for full-time emergency services, a rebuilt machine was placed into service. Vehicles were rebuilt in the department's shops, and all new vehicles were equipped with safety belts, new sirens and emergency equipment.
Upon the availability of funds, salary adjustments were to be ordered for all job classifications. In many instances, the salary increases were the first in four or five years. To alleviate arresting officer shortages, a program for training trooper recruits was instituted, in addition to the pre-existing cadet program. The first group of some 40 recruits, hired in 1963, received the most comprehensive and lengthy training ever afforded department employees. The communication system was improved by the end of 1963, with the replacement of obsolete materials, the erection of additional relay stations and the modernization of several old relay stations. A welcome change for uniformed officers was the issuance of short-sleeved, open-collared, light-weight shirts in the summer uniform. Weapons were standardized and replaced as necessary. Reserves of other weapons, gas and other materials were brought up to standard. All posts were surveyed and needed repairs made.
Col. Lin go resigned his position as director on October 1,1965. He was succeeded by C.W. Russell, a former state trooper. Under Col. Russell, the department was provided its own headquarters building. In early February 1964, the department moved into the former Highway Building, 500 Dexter Ave., in Montgomery. During that fiscal year, four new Highway Patrol offices were built, in Eufaula, Gadsden, Decatur and Mobile. A fifth office later was built in Grove Hill. Also of major import, a new interstate teletype system was installed, linking posts and district offices with state headquarters.
The late '60s and '70s were years of rapid evolution for the Department of Public Safety. Working conditions for troopers improved in the mid-'60s, when new patrol cars were equipped with air conditioning; and December 29, 1965, brought about a five-day workweek, giving each trooper two days off each week.
In 1966, four disaster control groups were organized. Each group consisted of 50 specially trained and equipped officers, ready to respond whenever a highly mobile, special force unit was needed. Col. Russell recognized a further need for a well-trained force of reserve troopers to augment arresting officer ranks. These carefully screened men now serve side by side with state troopers throughout the state on routine assignments, as well as during natural disasters and other special details.
Following Gov. Lurleen Wallace's untimely death in 1968, Col. Floyd Mann again assumed the position of director of Public Safety. Under Col. Mann, the Safety Education Unit was transferred to the Highway Patrol Division, placing those officers under the direct supervision of Highway Patrol district captains. Col. Mann also created a new Highway Patrol District in Huntsville in 1969, bringing the number of districts to 10.
Col. Mann also turned his attention to the Driver License Division. In 1969 and 1970, electronically operated driver license testing machines were installed in six of the state's larger metropolitan areas. This innovation improved the efficiency of the state's larger examining stations and decreased both time and personnel in testing prospective drivers. This change was followed in 1972 by the employment of driver license technicians. The effect was to release trained arresting officers for patrol duty, while maintaining the high level of driver licensing services. A further change under Col. Mann was the creation of the Implied Consent Unit in 1970, to administer the newly enacted law regarding chemical tests for intoxication.
George Wallace began his third term as governor in 1971, and appointed Walter L. Allen, a retired state trooper major, as director of Public Safety. Under Col. Allen, the Selma Highway Patrol District was created to relieve the Montgomery District of three counties and the Tuscaloosa District of four counties. The new district consisted of Dallas, Wilcox, Perry, Marengo, Hale, Greene and Sumter counties. Allen also transferred the Safety Education Unit back to the Service Division from Highway Patrol. Col. Allen also directed construction of the department's first firing range, a large, modern facility located near Mt. Meigs.
On December 1, 1972, Captain E.C. Dothard became director. Dothard had been in charge of the Governor's Security Detail during the administrations of both Govs. George and Lurleen Wallace. Under Col. Dothard, the department continued striving to upgrade the caliber of its law enforcement officers. During 1972, for example, more than 50 schools were conducted at the department's academy. Also in 1972, integration of the state trooper force was ordered by Judge Frank M. Johnson in what was to be known as the Paradise Case. In the federal court order, Judge Johnson ruled that Public Safety must hire one black trooper for each white hired until 25 percent of the force was black. It would be 1990 before a federal court consent decree in the case was issued.
Federal grants received in 1973 allowed Public Safety to equip all patrol cars with protective shields, roll bars, spotlights, electronic sirens and public address systems. A separate grant, awarded through the Office of Highway and Traffic Safety, was used to purchase 54 Speed Gun II radar units used to enforce the 55 mile-per-hour speed limit effective nationwide that year. As a result, arrests for speeding violations increased 18 percent. Also, the department strengthened its overweight truck enforcement program by increasing mobile weighing crews from three to five. Realizing the gains to be made through application of federal grant funds, the department formed its Planning and Research Unit in 1973, to work with the Governor's Office of Highway and Traffic Safety and the Law Enforcement Planning Agency.Among the many assignments state troopers faced in 1974, was a nationwide truck strike. In Alabama, the strike caused violent incidents in which trucks and passing cars were pelted with rocks and fired into. These incidents escalated during February, prompting the cancellation of all time off for Highway Patrol troopers. Also in 1974, the Safety Education Unit was charged with planning and equipping a department museum, now housed in the lobby of the Public Safety Building in Montgomery. Included in the museum are several vehicles used by the Highway Patrol, a 1936 Ford patrol car and a 1961 Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Also on display are weapons, a 1972 Javelin patrol car (the sports cars once used for patrolling), equipment and various department uniforms. The museum remains a popular attraction for school children and other visitors to Alabama's capital city.
Executive Order No. 55, issued by Gov. George Wallace in 1974, created within Public Safety the Alabama Bureau of Investigation Division, previously known as the Investigative and Identification Division. The department's other four divisions were not affected by the order. The following year, Public Safety formed the State Trooper Honor Guard to participate in funerals, parades and other special events. Also in 1975, the department's Aviation Unit was formed in response to the increasing need for aerial law enforcement capabilities. The unit, staffed with state trooper pilots, initially acquired four TH-13T helicopters and one Cessna 182 airplane for use in traffic control, aerial surveillance, searches and rescues. The Aviation Unit has continued to grow in the 10 years since its formation, and is available to assist law enforcement agencies statewide.
Although Alabama lacks a statewide vehicle inspection program, the Department of Public Safety in 1975 began conducting random vehicle inspection checkpoints to help ensure highway safety. At various times and locations throughout the state, officers stopped cars to check lights, tires, brakes, mufflers and horns. With the assistance of the State Trooper Reserves, officers made 5,055 arrests and issued 12.502 warnings while working the checkpoints.
Height and weight standards for state trooper applicants were abolished as the result of a suit alleging that the requirements discriminated against women. U.S. District Judge Frank M. Johnson ordered that the standards be eliminated as part of the screening process for prospective state troopers in June 1976. No preferential treatment for female applicants or recruits was ordered by the court.
In 1978, Public Safety placed into service a number of semi-marked patrol cars in an effort to curb the growing numbers of traffic deaths. The cars were used first in September in a selective enforcement saturation program. In addition, however, the department continued to recognize that the blue and gray marked patrol cars, when spotted by motorists, serve as a highly visible reminder to drive carefully and courteously.
Accustomed to the incidence of traffic accidents among its enforcement personnel, the department suffered a new tragedy in 1978, with its first aviation crash. Taking off in response to a burglary call, one of the department's helicopters crashed to the ground in flames. Its trooper pilot, Joe Pritchett, was stunned by the crash but was rescued from the wreckage by aviation mechanic Billy Mitchell. Mitchell's actions, as well as protective clothing worn by pilots, prevented the accident from resulting in serious injury.
Public Safety, in 1977, issued the state's first picture driver license. Instead of the old central issue license card mailed to applicants, the new license was a photo card issued locally at the time of application. Non-driver identification cards similar in appearance to driver licenses also were issued under the new system. With the advent of the picture driver license, renewal notices no longer were sent to drivers. The new licensing system was accompanied by an extensive campaign to remind individuals to check their licenses for validity. The license issued during the first two years of the system was valid for either two years or four years to set up a staggered system for renewals.
The change to a photo license signaled a coming change in the function of the driver license. The driver license began serve not only as an authorization to operate a motor vehicle, but also as a photo identification for business transactions. The use of licenses in conducting business transactions suddenly increased the value of the license among the criminal element. As a result, the department identified increasing incidence of fraud involving driver licenses. In late 1985, Public Safety acted to curb fraudulent use of licenses by initiating a more secure, central issue license system.
Public Safety continued its fight against drunken driving, adding to its arsenal two breath alcohol testing vans, familiarly known as "batmobiles". The vans, procured with federal funds in 1977, were equipped with sophisticated testing equipment and holding facilities for persons found to be driving under the influence.
Also that year, the department formed its Public Information Unit within the Service Division. The unit was created to serve as a central means of disseminating information about Public Safety to the news media and Alabama's citizens. It also was responsible for department publications.
Public Safety took its first step toward creating a computer data base for law enforcement use in late 1977. This advance into computer data storage retrieval was made through the entry of criminal histories on first offenders. Two other significant developments were recorded that year. First, the department's disaster control groups were reorganized and renamed Special Operations Platoons to more accurately reflect the nature of their work. Tactical operations continued as a function of the platoons. Second, Public Safety's Alabama Criminal Justice Training Center found a home at Craig Field in Selma. After months of negotiations, property at Craig, valued at $18 million, was transferred to the department at no cost on December 28. At that time, all training activities began to move to Selma, where they are still located.
The physical plant includes dormitories, gymnasiums, a cafeteria, classroom and office space, as well as other training facilities. The training center also is the site of the Alabama Criminal Justice Library, which serves all law enforcement agencies in the state. The training center offers basic training to police officers throughout Alabama, and also provides advanced training in a number of areas.
Troopers got the opportunity to put their training to the test in December 1977, with the escalating United Mine Workers strike. Confrontations between union and non-union coal miners were violent at times during the 109-day strike. Non-union coal miners were subjected to sabotage, and coal carriers were threatened and their equipment damaged. Gov. Wallace called on Public Safety to prevent personal injury and property damage, and the department responded. Two Special Operations Platoons were activated, and the remaining two were placed on standby. When confrontations occurred, all four platoons were activated and, all told, worked a total of 6,996 man-days.
Gov. Wallace named Meady L. Hilyer to direct Public Safety following Col. Dothard's request to return to his merit system position of state trooper captain. Hilyer became director on April 13, 1978.
In the late 1970s, the Department of Public Safety strengthened its commitment to drug enforcement operations, and by the end of March 1978, it had destroyed $1.6 million in illegal drugs confiscated by the Narcotics Unit. Several months later, on May 28, Public Safety joined the El Paso Intelligence Center, an organization of state and federal agencies working to enhance drug enforcement efforts by exchanging drug smuggling intelligence. EPIC provides a strictly controlled central facility for the receipt, collation and dissemination of information on the smuggling of controlled substances and illegal aliens. The department recognized increasing illegal narcotics activities in Alabama and responded by seeking ever more effective means of combating the problem.
Also in those years, state trooper Sgt. Jim Collins distinguished himself -- and brought honor to the department -- by winning the National Police Combat Pistol Championship two successive years, scoring a perfect 1500 in match competition. Collins, edged out of the championship a third year, donated many of his awards and trophies to the department, where they are enjoyed by visitors to the department museum.
In other areas, Public Safety continued evolving in response to changing law enforcement needs to provide better services to the public. Its Identification Unit, commanded by Ronald G. Wittmus, employed the state's only certified latent print examiners. In 1978, Wittmus, Wade Garrett, Fulton Prevost, Marietta Prevost and Ed Burkett were certified by the International Association for Identification. Also, the State Trooper Reserve program, in limbo for more than a year, was re-established by legislative authority Sept. 20, 1978. Among the changes in the program was a requirement that reserve officers complete a 48-hour training program. Public Safety also hired, trained and graduated its first trooper recruit class in two years, placing 45 new state troopers into service October 27, 1978.
Late 1978 and early 1979 were punctuated by strikes and demonstrations throughout the state that demanded response by the department. A much publicized trial in Cullman, that of Tommy Lee Hines, prompted demonstrations by both the Ku Klux Klan and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Troopers were called upon to maintain order and prevent injury or property damage by physically separating the two groups. Troopers also responded to incidents of vandalism and harassment resulting from municipal employee strikes in Sylacauga and Huntsville.
The inauguration of Gov. Fob James ushered in 1979. That year also saw a new class of state trooper recruits in training at the Selma academy, a class distinguished by the department's first female trooper, Clara Zeigler, whose first assignment was Dallas County. The department also began a new Comprehensive Selective Enforcement Program to identify sections of highways with higher-than-average accident rates. After the roadways were identified through detailed studies of accident reports, a federal overtime grant was used to pay troopers to patrol extra hours on the roadways.
In March 1979, Gov. James named Maj. Jerry Shoemaker as director of Public Safety, and several significant changes followed. Highway Patrol districts, for example, were redesignated as the following troops: Decatur District (Decatur and Quad Cities posts) became Troop A; Huntsville District, Troop B; Tuscaloosa District (Tuscaloosa and Hamilton posts), Troop C; Birmingham District, Troop D; Jacksonville District (Jacksonville and Gadsden posts), Troop E; Selma District (Selma and Demopolis posts), Troop F; Montgomery District, Troop G; Opelika District (Opelika and Alexander City posts), Troop H; Mobile District, Troop I; Evergreen District (Evergreen and Grove Hill posts), Troop J; and Dothan District (Dothan and Eufaula posts), Troop K.
Gov. James, recognizing the growing drug problem in Alabama, consolidated all state drug enforcement officers in a single unit, the State Narcotics Unit in the ABI Division. Under the reorganization, officers of Public Safety, Alcoholic Beverage Control Board and the Department of Health banded together under the command of a state trooper captain to fight drug smuggling and production.
In May, the department issued semi-marked vehicles for use in highway patrolling. These vehicles had one door decal and were used by uniformed state troopers in the continuing effort to bring down a growing traffic death rate.
Later that year, the department initiated a radar certification program to train and certify officers in the use of radar. This was necessary because the increased use of radar in traffic enforcement was accompanied by an increase in court challenges of radar equipment and operators. Highway Patrol officers were required to pass written and road tests before being issued a radar unit for use in traffic enforcement.
Also in 1979, the legislature addressed a driver licensing problem by establishing the Medical Advisory Board. The board is responsible for making recommendations to the department regarding the issuing of a license to an individual with physical or psychological problems that may preclude licensing the person to drive.
Sept. 12, 1979, brought Hurricane Frederic to Alabama's shore, and state troopers were called on to prepare for the storm and face its aftermath. Frederic's winds reached 130 miles per hour before it slammed into the coastline of Mobile and Baldwin counties. The Third Special Operations Platoon was dispatched to Mobile as residents began evacuating coastal areas. The department's Mobile Command Post was set up in Spanish Fort to serve as a command center.
The full force of Frederic ravaged the coast at about midnight. Virtually all roads in Mobile and Baldwin counties were closed because of debris and wind and water damage. Electrical power was out in the two counties, and the Dauphin Island Bridge was destroyed. The Second Special Operations Platoon and 37 other state troopers moved into the stricken area. All were working 12-hour shifts, and all off-days were canceled.
It was more than a week later before any real progress was made in cleaning up the massive damages caused by the storm, damages that are still visible in some areas almost 10 years later. After the storm, ice, food and fuel were virtually unobtainable; price-gouging, looting and near riots in food distribution centers added to the devastation. A state of emergency was declared, and 1,400 national guardsmen were called in to assist in disaster recovery. The state of emergency was called off September 24, but there remained the tremendous tasks of repairing and rebuilding.
Following the disruptions of the late 1970s, 1980 provided a much needed respite. The department focused its attention on reducing the loss in lives and property on roadways, reducing the flow of illegal drugs into the state and strengthening its services.
Faced with rising inflation and the need for strict economic measures, the department effected changes to reduce administrative costs without reducing services. As a result, Troop C was disbanded, placing the Hamilton Post under Troop A, and the Tuscaloosa Post under Troop D. Later, Troop H was merged into Troop G, placing the Montgomery, Opelika and Alexander City posts all under the Troop G commander.
Consolidation of the State Narcotics Unit was effected in July, with the lateral transfer of 21 narcotics investigators from the ABC Board and the Department of Health. Each of the new troopers was required to complete basic state trooper training. Its first year, the newly reorganized unit confiscated some $36 million in contraband.
The department's drug enforcement efforts spread with the establishment of the HELP line, in conjunction with the Alabama Elks Association and the Alabama Department of Education. This toll-free number serves as a secret witness line for anonymous reporting of illegal drug activity. Recorded information received on the HELP line is reviewed and checked by narcotics officers for appropriate action.
As a part of its continuing effort to create a safer driving environment, the department started the Truck Accident Prevention Program in 1980. This program resulted from concern about the number of large trucks involved in fatal motor vehicle wrecks. It combined public information, stringent enforcement and cooperation by trucking concerns. TAPP was received favorably, and had the desired effect of reducing truck-related traffic deaths by 21 percent.
Also in 1980, the first class of trooper cadets since 1972 began training at the academy. The new cadet program combined classroom and on-the-job training for one year before those who reached age 21 were promoted to state trooper.
Two revisions to the Rules of the Road in 1980 affected the Department of Public Safety. The first deleted the mandatory driver license suspension upon conviction of driving while intoxicated. The new code separated the charges of driving under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances and reckless driving, and provided that the court could recommend suspension of the driver license of any person convicted of either charge. It also provided that revocation of the license was mandatory upon the second or subsequent conviction of driving under the influence.
The second revision provided Alabama with its first charge for homicide by motor vehicle. Other changes included prohibiting the attempt to flee or elude an officer, racing on the highway, parking within 500 feet of an emergency vehicle at the scene of an emergency and riding in a house trailer or towed camping trailer. A separate act authorized Public Safety to collect a $5 fee for driver testing, with proceeds going to the General Fund.
Two other welcome pieces of legislation were enacted in the early 1980s. The first required mandatory use of child restraints in motor vehicles by children under the age of three. The second was a strengthened DUI law to help combat the incidence of drunken driving and lessen roadway carnage caused by drunken drivers. This law mandates, upon first conviction, suspension of the license for 90 days and attendance of DUI school. It also provides for a fine of $250 to $1,000 and imprisonment of not more than one year. Under the law, second and subsequent convictions carry increasingly severe penalties. Public Safety welcomed the new laws as new weapons in the fight against traffic injuries and fatalities.
The 1982-83 fiscal year was trying for Public Safety and for other state agencies with proration of the state's General Fund caused by an economy on the decline. Public Safety was forced to cut its operations by approximately 25 percent to avoid deficits and, further, was faced with the prospect of laying off 185 employees. Rather than resort to layoffs, department personnel voluntarily relinquished one day's pay per pay period for 14 weeks, saving $800,000 and preventing the layoffs.
In 1983, George Wallace began an unprecedented fourth term as governor, and named Byron Prescott, a career state trooper and chief of the Governor's Security Detail, to serve as director of Public Safety. Prescott sought to relieve the manpower shortage by bolstering arresting officer strength and, in doing so, remove the department from under the federal court order regarding hiring and promotion. He also turned his attention to equipment and supplies, seeking to improve services by updating department resources and computerizing various records.
Public Safety, as well as other state departments, faced the challenges of continued effective and efficient operations within severe budgetary constraints imposed by state General Funds financial woes. These constraints forced departments to seek measures to trim expenditures and more effectively use existing personnel. Within Public Safety, these measures manifested themselves in a variety of ways. Unable to purchase new patrol cars because of lack of funding, the department began rebuilding cars from the ground up. It cost Public Safety approximately $12,000 to purchase a new car at 1985 prices, versus $3,500 to $4,000 to completely rebuild one car.
Public Safety implemented cost-effective programs in other areas. It purchased a laser for the Latent Print Laboratory, a time-saving device for latent print examinations. Also, the department began to microfiche fingerprint records, thus saving money and eliminating the need for vast storage areas for the records. Public Safety also sought federal overtime grants to supplement department allocations. The receipt of federal funds for DUI and speed limit enforcement, for example, increased trooper time on roadways by paying officers for patrolling overtime.
Receipt of the overtime grants was welcomed, particularly in light of a 1985 U.S. Supreme Court ruling effectively restricting troopers to a 40-hour work week. The court ruled that law enforcement officers and firefighters were not exempt from the federal Fair Labor Practices Act, and the effect in Alabama was that troopers must be paid at the rate of time and one-half for overtime worked. Because the department had no funds to pay overtime, it restricted officers to 40 hours, except in emergency situations. This exacerbated the existing shortage of arresting officers, and was felt by the public through increased response time to traffic accidents and other incidents.
Prescott, however, sought to ease the situation by hiring and training much-needed classes of recruits and cadets to fill vacancies. By the end of 1985, Public Safety had graduated one class of recruits, while one class each of cadets and recruits remained in training at the academy. Another class of recruits was planned for 1986. These new troopers were to take their places in the Highway Patrol Division as a first assignment.
Two new units were formed within the department in 1985 to better serve and protect the public. Activated on Jan. 1, 1985, the Hazardous Materials Response Team under the command of Captain Fred Patterson was formed to handle incidents involving explosives and other hazardous materials. Members of the unit are specially trained and equipped to deal with spills, leaks and accidents on roadways and at other sites. Following its formation, team members were put to work immediately. On Jan. 28, a tanker truck containing xylene wrecked near Montgomery. The team responded and stabilized the situation, but traffic was detoured for seven hours. Later that year, in March, a major train derailment involving hazardous materials occurred in Evergreen. The team responded, and along with other department members, remained at the scene to bring the situation under control without injury. Captain Patterson and other team members, along with two troopers of the Louisiana State Police Hazardous Materials Team, "vented" with explosive charges, two tank cars of methyl methyculate, preventing uncontrolled explosion of the cars. The situation was stabilized in five days. No injuries were reported throughout the incident, but several hundred residents were evacuated from surrounding areas, and traffic was rerouted.
A second unit, the Missing Children Bureau, was formed in response to the growing need for a central information and investigation unit to serve missing children and adults. It was created within Public Safety by executive order in March; Act 85-538, the law under which the bureau operates, was passed in May. The bureau adopted a comprehensive approach to locating missing persons and preventing disappearances by working with local law enforcement agencies, government agencies and other public and private organizations. In its first year, the bureau located and recovered 40 missing persons, assisted in locating and recovering some 250 other missing children and adults, and helped identify four previously unidentified bodies. A toll-free hotline for reporting missing persons was set up, and the bureau prints and distributes flyers and other publications on missing persons.
Under Col. Prescott, Public Safety continued its involvement in the federal Drug Enforcement Administration-sponsored Domestic Marijuana Eradication Program. Home-grown marijuana is recognized as a top cash crop in Alabama, and through the eradication program, officers seek to destroy as much of the crop as possible before it reaches the streets. The first year of the program, 1982, officers destroyed almost 35,000 plants valued at some $18 million. By 1990, the program had become a major cooperative effort among law enforcement agencies throughout the state and was consistently ranked among the most effective programs in the United States.
By the mid-'80s, department personnel had amassed an impressive roster or statistics, indicative of the services provided to the public. Driver License Division personnel tested 389,139 applicants and maintained files on 3.5 million licensed drivers. Officers of the ABI Division made 350 arrests in criminal investigations and confiscated more than $147 million in contraband. Uniformed troopers made 179,449 arrests for traffic violations and investigated more than 25,000 accidents, traveling more than 12 million miles during the year.
January 1987 ushered in Alabama's first Republican governor since Reconstruction, Gov. Guy Hunt of Holly Pond in Cullman County. Hunt's appointee as director of Public Safety was Thomas H. Wells, a career law enforcement practitioner and administrator. Serving as assistant director was Harold J. Hammond, a career state trooper serving as chief of the Driver License Division.
Wells, following his graduation from Florida State University, began his law enforcement career with the U.S. Secret Service, serving in the White House and Vice Presidential Protective Division, as an inspector in the Office of the Director, and as special agent in charge of field offices in Alabama. Wells retired from the Secret Service in 1981, and accepted a job as director of corporate security for Morrison's Inc. He served in that capacity until 1985, when he was appointed director of Financial Investigations for the Florida Department of Banking and Finance.
As director of Public Safety, Wells initiated and refined programs throughout the department designed to serve Alabamians more effectively and to executive Public Safety's mission with increased efficiency.
He sought to resolve the 15-year-old Paradise federal court case regarding hiring and promotion of sworn officers, engaging in extensive meetings with counsel for plaintiffs, defendants, State Personnel and the Governor's Office. In July 1987, Wells visited troop headquarters throughout the state to explain provisions of a proposed settlement and received positive response. Following comprehensive hearings and deliberation, U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson approved the proposed settlement Feb. 1, 1988. An immediate result of the consent decree was the promotion of 50 troopers to the rank of corporal. Promotions to other ranks were soon to follow.
Pursuant to the consent decree, a detailed, formalized transfer and reassignment policy and expanded EEO program were implemented, as well as the development of new test summary information and evaluation procedures to establish promotional registers for each rank, and the development of management training programs for sworn officers and civilians. In addition, new recruiting, testing and hiring procedures for entry level positions of state trooper trainee and cadet were developed and implemented, with the goal of minimal negative impact. Included was a statewide pre-sign-up publicity campaign designed to inform prospective applicants about the sign-up and testing process. During the week-long sign-up period, an astounding number of cadet and trainee applicants -- 6,586, of which 39 percent represented minorities -- made application at 18 sites throughout the state. Applicants were required to view a videotape illustrating typical duties of a trooper and providing information about the video-driven test. They also were provided with study materials for the test, which was administered to some 3,400 applicants simultaneously in Huntsville, Montgomery and Mobile. By late-summer 1990, test scoring was continuing with the goal of producing a listing of the top 300-400 eligibles, from among which Public Safety planned to hire in early 1991.
Also during 1987, the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program completed training and began field operations. This effort seeks to reduce the incidence of commercial vehicle involvement in traffic wrecks through equipment and operator safety checks of inter- and intrastate commercial vehicles. A Federal Highway Administration official, on hand to view safety inspections in Alabama in September, praised the effectiveness of the program and cited Alabama's MCSAP as a flagship program. In its first full quarter of operation, MCSAP teams conducted approximately 2,000 safety and equipment inspections per month, and it is apparent that the program is making Alabama's roadways safer for all motorists. Prior to its implementation, commercial vehicles accounted for 20.7 percent of all fatal accidents. During 1988, the year after MCSAP became operational, commercial vehicles were involved in 16.4 percent of fatal accidents, representing a significant decrease. During the 1988-89 Fiscal Year, mobile computer communications data terminals were installed in 27 MCSAP units.Public Safety turned its attention to a second area of emphasis regarding commercial vehicles, the Federal Commercial Vehicle Safety Act of 1986, which prohibits commercial drivers from holding more than one driver license, requires self-reporting of out-of-state convictions, and specifies how states must comply with the act. Subsequently, Public Safety appointed an advisory panel comprising trucking industry and state department officials, as well as representatives of other associations and agencies affected by implementation of the Commercial Driver License Law in Alabama, which was to be passed by the 1989 Legislature. Testing and issuance of Alabama commercial driver licenses to drivers of vehicles covered by the act are slated to begin in October 1990, preceded by a pilot summer testing program to validate the written portion of the test. In conjunction with the program, computer software has been designed to interface state CDL systems with the central CDL site, the National Driver Register and all states within the CDL system. With its motto of "From now on, only the best will drive," the CDL program seeks increased safety through appropriate testing and licensing of commercial drivers.
In April 1987, Public Safety became engaged in a Hunt administration initiative -- the Alabama Management Improvement Program -- which sought to evaluate state systems and procedures through studies of individual agencies, involving all levels of state personnel and incorporating expertise donated by private enterprise. The AMIP study of Public Safety identified a number of areas of needed emphasis and posed methodology for attaining specific goals. Primary areas included fee adjustments for department services, which were implemented in part by the 1988 Legislature, and computerization of department operations, which was begun through the employment of a data/information systems manager. Expanded computer capability for Public Safety became an early area of emphasis for Wells. The department's revamped Data/Information Systems Unit provided direction for development, coordination and maintenance of data information and office automation systems for all divisions. Among other accomplishments, the unit implemented office automation systems throughout the state, established a computer training program, implemented a new department accounting system with interface to the state comptroller's system, implemented enhancements to ABI's case management software and installation of an on-line network linking all ABI units, coordinated software development for five states' access to the National Commercial Driver License Clearing House, and developed numerous new personal computer applications. Other areas identified by the Management Improvement Program continue to be addressed in a variety of ways.
Recognizing increasing needs for identification services among Alabama's law enforcement community, Wells explored with other law enforcement agencies the possibility of acquiring an automated fingerprint identification system, known as AFIS, in early 1987. In August 1987, Public Safety hosted an AFIS demonstration in Montgomery for members of the Legislature and representatives of state and local law enforcement agencies, introducing them to the new identification technology and demonstrating its importance to Alabama law enforcement. Little more than a year later, Gov. Hunt announced plans to acquire AFIS equipment to be housed at Public Safety and used by law enforcement agencies throughout the state.
Wells stressed the value of interagency cooperation at all levels to maximize limited law enforcement resources, particularly in the area of drug enforcement. To that end, the department entered into drug enforcement strategy sessions involving the U.S. Attorney's Office, FBI, U.S. Customs and Drug Enforcement Administration, with Public Safety functioning as lead agency for drug interdiction in Alabama. Gov. Hunt sought to further integrate drug enforcement functions through executive orders enlisting resources of the Alcohol Beverage Control Board Enforcement Division and the Marine Police Division of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources in the fight against drugs. Wells also helped bring Alabama's drug problem to the national forefront when he was asked to testify before a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee subcommittee examining state drug enforcement needs.
Cooperative law enforcement work is proving a valuable resource in the fight against drugs in Alabama. A major case involving state, local and federal agencies resulted in the indictment of 29 subjects believed responsible for importing into the state more than 30 plane load of marijuana and one of cocaine. A separate investigation involving state and federal agencies and coordinated by an ABI agent resulted in the indictment of 22 individuals alleged to have imported 15,000 kilograms of cocaine and 1,000 kilograms of marijuana.
Cooperation, as well, is the key ingredient in Alabama's increasingly successful Domestic Marijuana Eradication Program, coordinated by Public Safety's Narcotics Service. The Alabama National Guard, for the first time, participated in the program in 1989, and overall confiscations totaled 163,395 plants with an unprecedented value of $326.8 million, and earning Alabama a seventh-place ranking nationwide.
In early 1988, Public Safety announced a surface drug and felony activity interdiction effort, the Felony Awareness Patrol. This program is an effective expansion of criminal enforcement activities using specially trained Highway Patrol troopers in detecting felony offenders while on routine patrol. FAP troopers have netted illegal aliens, fugitives, stolen vehicles, illegal drugs, cash and illegal weapons, and continue to avert felony activity on Alabama's roadways. As part of the program, drug detection dogs train and work with selected FAP troopers in identifying the presence of and locating illicit drugs being transported by couriers through Alabama.Public Safety also sought to influence drug usage through education, distributing copies of a model drug-free workplace manual to Alabama police and sheriff's department and chambers of commerce throughout the state. In addition, the department hosted a 1990 conference for Alabama's mayors and chiefs of police to showcase successful community programs that combat drugs.
A second major new program implemented in the Highway Patrol Division was an enhanced DUI training and enforcement effort. This new program included the appointment of a DUI coordinator at headquarters, development of DUI field instructor personnel and DUI enforcement training for all Highway Patrol Division troopers, and publication of DUI reference material. The results have been a decrease in DUI-involved traffic fatalities and an increase in DUI arrests. In fact, DUI arrests per officer increased 50 percent across the board. Enhanced DUI efforts became even more critical when, in 1989, federal DUI grant funds for trooper overtime enforcement were canceled due to untimely reporting of DUI convictions.
However, the department received another weapon for its DUI-fighting arsenal, 24 video cameras donated by Aetna Insurance Company as part of its "Eye on DUI" program. Public Safety, the first state agency to receive the cameras, placed the cameras in patrol cars to videotape suspected drunken drivers on the road and in off-road sobriety tests. The resulting videotape may then be used as evidence in prosecuting those arrested, and initial figures indicate use of the cameras has increased numbers of guilty pleas.
Also during Wells' tenure as director, Public Safety implemented an aerial speed enforcement program following passage of enabling legislation during the 1989 legislative session. The program involves trooper pilots and trooper observers working with troopers on the ground to detect and cite speed limit violators. Enforcement began in south Montgomery County with plans to expand the program to other highly traveled areas of the state.
In 1988, Highway Patrol troopers welcomed the purchase of 31 Ford Mustangs for patrol use, yet continued to rely on full-sized sedans as the mainstay of the fleet. Also that year, the department implemented a new emergency service for motorists, a toll-free emergency hotline for motorists to report highway accidents and other incidents. Calls to the hotline automatically are routed to the nearest state trooper post for response or transfer to the appropriate agency. Alabama became the 12 th state to implement the number, which is designed to simplify accident reporting and improve emergency response time.
Public Safety enhanced aerial law enforcement capabilities through acquiring a forward looking infrared device, or FLIR, to be used in drug interdiction efforts and missing persons and fugitive searches. Shortly after the FLIR became operational, trooper aviators enabled the capture of two armed robbery suspects in Macon County. Under cloudy conditions at dusk, the troopers, using the FLIR monitor, spotted the suspects hiding in undergrowth. Information on the suspects' location was relayed to local officers on the ground, who then made the arrests.
In 1989, 9mm semi-automatic pistols were adopted as the standard issue weapon for Alabama state troopers. Three-day transition training sessions including classroom instruction, practice and qualification firing were held at the Alabama Criminal Justice Training Center prior to issuing the new weapons.
Within the department's ABI Division, the Special Investigation and Security Service was formed and the Criminal Intelligence Center reorganized to include personnel from what was previously the Intelligence Unit of the Administrative Division. Further, Alabama joined other states participating in the U.S. National Central Bureau of INTERPOL State Liaison Program. The Alabama Department of Public Safety signed an agreement which allows the ABI Division to coordinate and process requests for assistance between INTERPOL and all law enforcement agencies within the state. INTERPOL is a worldwide law enforcement coordinating agency based in France.
In 1987, Public Safety expanded its information and education services by consolidation of the Public Information and Safety Education units. Merging these two units provided greater coordination of two closely related functions within the Public Information/Education Unit. The new unit, which also includes recruiting and legislative liaison activities, formed a publications section and began publishing, among other materials, a new monthly department newsletter, The Blue Light, and a video production section to meet the department's audio-visual information and education needs. Also, the department recruiter initiated an Explorer Scouts program to familiarize interested high school students with career opportunities within Public Safety and other areas of law enforcement.
The late-1980s brought their share of tragedy to Public Safety ... the 1987 shooting death while on duty of Tpr. Elizabeth Cobb, and the subsequent arrest and conviction of a fellow trooper, Joe Duncan, of her murder ... and the death, following his diagnosis with cancer, of Capt. E.C. Dothard, commander of the Jacksonville State Trooper Post and former department director.
"It shall be the mission of the Alabama Department of Public Safety to ensure equal protection under the law for all people, to faithfully serve the public, and to perform with diligence and courtesy all duties integral to the fulfillment of this mission." It is these words that guide the work of the Alabama Department of Public Safety as it looks to the 1990s, the last decade of the 20th Century. Throughout the years, members of the department have met the demands of public service. In 55 years, the Department of Public Safety has matured to meet the ever-changing demands of public service. It remains a vital, dynamic force that, on its 55th anniversary, commemorates its past and recognizes it as the foundation for its future.
John E. Richardson