of Public Safety History: 1935-1990
"Gentlemen, if I have made a mistake, I'll soon correct that."
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.'"
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.