Alabama Speed Trap Town's PD Called Out On Its Bullshit By Nearby Sheriff, Limps On Without Most Of Its Officers
from the please-let-the-door-hit-you-in-the-ass-repeatedly dept
No one cuts cops more slack than other cops. You really have to be an impressive kind of awful to lose the support of your Thin Blue Line brothers and sisters.
But the police department in Brookside, Alabama has managed to do exactly that. For years, no one had heard of or cared that the town of Brookside even existed… and that possibly includes a percentage of the town’s 1,253 inhabitants.
That all changed when a new sheriff rolled into town, so to speak. It wasn’t a sheriff (because the county already had one) but a new police chief, Mike Jones. Where town leaders may have seen nothing more than a vacancy in its two-employee department, Jones saw opportunity. He soon turned Brookside into Nottingham, Alabama, patrolling nearby highways to hit drivers passing by the small town with multiple fines and fees. Officers also engaged in unnecessary towing of vehicles over minor traffic violations, and apparently made up laws to justify stops, seizures, and traffic citations.
Chief Jones was hired in 2018. From 2018 to 2020, fines and fees from traffic citations rose 600%. This windfall went directly to expanding the revenue stream. Chief Jones hired seven more officers, obtained two drug dogs, one MRAP, and the disdain of nearby law enforcement officials. He also incurred the wrath of an untold number of Alabama residents, who were soon making trips to Brookside to attend once-a-month traffic court sessions — sessions that resulted in Brookside officers being forced to route traffic and oversee parking for this monthly influx of out-of-towners.
The county sheriff had already received several complaints about the traffic enforcement extortion being performed by Brookside officers, who often operated in unmarked vehicles while wearing uniforms that gave no indication which law enforcement agency employed them. A nearby district attorney called the town a “black hole” where drivers are subjected to rights violations, harassment, and bogus citations.
National exposure caused this real life Boss Hogg to resign his position as police chief. And the Brookside PD is experiencing something most law enforcement agencies never do: criticism from their supposed brothers in arms.
As a local lawmaker held a second town hall to focus on policing in the tiny town of Brookside, the stories kept coming. Many told about being stranded on the side of the road. People spoke of stolen money, seized guns, towed cars and lost jobs. People shared stories of getting 11 or even 12 tickets in one traffic stop.
And the sheriff of Jefferson County, Mark Pettway, encouraged them to fight the charges in court.
“If you have a ticket and have not gone to court yet,” he told the crowd, “when you do go to court, plead not guilty.”
Again, he said, “When you go to court, plead not guilty.”
When other cops are telling civilians how to beat the rap, you know you’ve fucked up. The fact that “multiple state agencies” are now investigating the department is another clue.
It’s not just cars Brookside cops were after. They’d take any property they could get their hands on.
One man, Jordan Cole, said Brookside was investigating his brother for car theft but ended up seizing his family’s home and arresting his elderly and disabled mother on a charge of hindering prosecution.
“They made us leave and we were told that if we step foot back on the property, we would be arrested,” Cole said. He said his family had to find somewhere else to live and ended up renting a run-down mobile home.
So far, the small town’s governance has yet to turn on the PD. In fact, the town’s officials have refused to step down, offering their far-from-tacit approval of the abuses that went on under Chief Jones. Not that their endorsement of the PD matters at this point. The exposure of the PD as a group of thieves and thugs wandering nearby roads has been enough to result in the resignation of most of the police force. Brookside will have to adjust to being just another insignificant dot on the road map, rather than an insatiable predator willing to convert residents of other towns into ATMs the PD’s band of thieves could hit again and again.