Citizens Academy learns about HPD administration
Tracy B. Cieniewicz, Hartselle Enquirer
The Hartselle Police Department Citizens Academy began its first class Sept. 14 with an exploration of HPD’s administration led by Chief Ron Puckett and Capt. Tom Sparks.
HPD employs 18 patrol officers who split three 10-hour shifts and work four days straight. Most shifts overlap to cover heavy traffic in the mornings and afternoons, as well as late night activity.
Patrol officers respond to calls for service, fire and medical emergencies, investigate traffic accidents, conduct initial criminal investigations, work traffic assignments, and prepare felony DUI and drug cases.
HPD also offers security patrol for vacationing residents and business owners who fill out a form with the department.
HPD’s patrol area covers 15 square miles, including 159 miles of roads and streets, six miles of Interstate 65, more than 9,800 home and business structures, and more than 12,000 citizens.
Sparks said while HPD does patrol approximately six miles of I-65, patrol officers currently do not issue speeding tickets on the interstate.
In 2005, HPD issued 2,945 citations for speeding (273), seatbelt usage (341), driving without car insurance (395, and DUI (80). The same year, 1,740 incident reports were filed with the department.
Puckett and Sparks explained how HPD extends its service to the community beyond patrol through its Criminal Investigation, Special Operations and Communications divisions, a Special Response Team, and the Hartselle City Jail.
The Criminal Investigation Division includes Lt. Justin Barley, Sgt. Tony Fetner, Investigator Amy Crouch, Investigator Shannon Hale and Investigator Alan McDearmond. The team’s responsibilities include undercover investigations of suspected criminals, narcotics investigations, follow-up child abuse investigations, sex offense investigations, and background checks on potential HPD employees.
Puckett said the division is above average on state and national levels for case clearance, including a 100 percent clearance rate on robberies and a 99 percent clearance rate on drug offenses in 2005.
The Special Operations Division includes Lt. Robert Finn, Sgt. James Holladay, School Resource Officer Michael Hudson, School Resource Officer Chad Guest, and Animal Control Officer Regina Jenkins. The team’s responsibilities include bicycle patrol, drug awareness education, special event coordination, and serving out-of-town warrants.
The Special Operations Division recently added code enforcement to its list of duties.
Sparks said the Special Response Team is always ready to diffuse dangerous situations.
Participation on the team is voluntary and eight sworn officers are trained to use special weaponry and tactics to execute warrants and control dangerous situations, including hostage situations and gun barricades.
The Communications Division includes Senior Dispatcher Brie Jones, and dispatchers Jeremy Stowe, Mandy Gandy, Gina Lance and Amanda Wilson. The team is responsible for all emergency and non-emergency communications for police, fire and emergency medical services and Hartselle Utilities after hours. The Communications Division also acts as third shift jailers.
Sparks is the city jail’s supervisor and Mike Anders and Gary Branham are jailers. The jail provides long and short term incarcerations with an inmate capacity of 23. The city jail also houses inmates for Priceville, Falkville and Somerville at a cost of $25 per day. The city spends approximately $10 per day to house and feed a Hartselle inmate.
The city jail profited $22,364 in 2005 by housing inmates from surrounding cities, but Puckett said those profits are decreasing annually.
The Morgan County Sheriff’s Department has also used the city jail as an overflow facility in exchange for trustee services to the city of Hartselle.
While misdemeanor theft accounts for many arrests, Puckett said most offenses in Hartselle are alcohol related.
Of the 1,592 inmates HPD housed in 2005, 1,189 were male and 403 were female. Approximately 1,300 of those were Caucasian with ages 18-29 seeing the highest arrest rate. The city jail housed an average of 11.3 inmates daily last year.
Approximately half, Puckett estimates, are repeat offenders.