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Enquirer file photo

HPD looks to expand, continue new initiatives

Having grown from 24 officers to 28 full-time officers and three part-time officers in nine months, Hartselle Police Department is looking to add another officer to its ranks. 

The additional officer will allow for an officer already in the department to take up a narcotics investigator position. 

Hartselle Police Chief Justin Barley said the narcotics investigator will be a useful addition for the department and community.

“That’s a position we had to forfeit a few years ago, so we are very excited to have that back,” Barley said. 

Barley said hiring a new officer has been made possible by making some structural adjustments to allow for another full-time position. The adjustment is among other actions the department has taken to streamline daily operations. 

Since taking his post as chief, Barley has worked with his department to accomplish several goals, such as the lateral transfer program, the school protection officers and a code enforcement officer. In addition, the department has been able to offer new equipment, such as load bearing vests for officers. 

“I am feeling very encouraged. If we could have just gotten our positions filled, answered calls for service and provided a good service to our citizens, that would have been a big accomplishment in and of itself,” Barley pointed out. “Along the way, through a lot of hard work by the officers here, we have been able to accomplish that and more, and I am very proud of that.”

Barley particularly highlighted the addition of the load-bearing vests for officers, “which have proven to have very good health benefits. These are things that will be valuable not only to the officers but to the taxpayers because it will help us work in a more efficient way with less risk and liability,” Barley said. 

As Barley prepares to enter into his second year in a few months, he said the biggest challenge the department will face is multiple officers qualifying for retirement. 

“I am prepared for up to four retirements in this next calendar year – two of those being in my command staff,” Barley said. “With that, we are going to constantly be filling those positions, and that will be a challenge. What we really want to work on more than anything, aside from attracting those good quality people, is that the people that are here are doing everything we can to prepare the next generation of leaders.”

Barley said leadership is already taking action to prepare for those who will follow in their footsteps. 

“We have 13 or 14 officers that will be eligible to retire in the next four years or less. It’s the changing of the guard, as they say; it’s coming, and we want to do that seamlessly and still be efficient and be a good police department,” he said. “That’s why recruitment, training, career growth and enhancement opportunities are crucial. 

“We are looking at opportunities to diversify our officers and their training so they can be cross-trained in many roles and be ready to fill different positions as they come available.”

Barley said as the year comes to a close, he is feeling encouraged about where the department is heading.

“I am very optimistic because we have some great officers, and I know we have some great people ready to fill those roles,” he said. “Me and the other members of the command staff, we have to do everything in our power to enable those officers to grow and be prepared when their time comes. 

“I would also add that watching the mayor and city council and school board work together to improve their community, and how seriously they take their roles and how much they care about what they are doing – it just makes the whole thing work,” he added. “The people that are here, that work here, live here and serve here – that’s what makes it special.”