Selma Chief of Police Willaim T. Riley responds to a shooting on King Street, which resulted in a confirmed murder. Riley was off duty when called in to the scene. --file photo
Selma Chief of Police Willaim T. Riley responds to a shooting on King Street, which resulted in a confirmed murder. Riley was off duty when called in to the scene. -- file photo

Chief Riley’s record discussed in council meeting

Published 10:30pm Wednesday, June 12, 2013

When Selma City Council members questioned the procedure for Selma Police Department promotions, the conversation at Tuesday’s council meeting turned to Selma Chief of Police William T. Riley and his employment.

The SPD tested officers using a multiple choice and short answer test to help determine promotions to the rank of sergeant and lieutenant in May, and officers were selected using their test scores as well as their job performance according to Riley.

But after complaints were lodged with the mayor’s office about how the test was scored, Selma Mayor George Evans asked the test’s administrator to address the council during last Thursday’s work session.

During Tuesday’s discussion, however, Ward 3 Councilman Greg Bjelke expressed his feelings about Riley after a discussion of the promotions.

“Mayor, I just want to put it out on the table because I don’t think we are getting our money’s worth [with Riley],” Bjelke said. “I just want to put it out on the table.”

Later Bjelke called for executive session surrounding the good name and character of Riley.

Following the meeting, Bjelke said he would not elaborate further on what he meant about the city not getting its money’s worth with Riley, but said he was, “just going to let it rest for now.”

Apart from Bjelke, Ward 1 Councilman Dr. Cecil Williamson questioned the ranking system for officers being considered for promotions in the meeting. He later said he was, “concerned about the lack of code enforcement and the way the examinations were handled,” when speaking of Riley, but said he would not talk about issues discussed by council members and Selma Mayor George Evans in the executive session.

Prior to the executive session, Evans told the council they had the power to fire the police chief.

“You all control whether or not the chief of police can stay or go, that’s not my vote that is yours,” Evans said.“I treat people the way I want to be treated. I don’t care if you are white or black and all that other stuff. Who I like and who I don’t like, I don’t get into that. I still treat [employees] with respect … If you all want to vote and get enough votes to get rid of the chief, then you all can do so.”

Evans has appointment power to hire and fire positions such as chief of police, but City Attorney Jimmy Nunn explained to the council later in the meeting they could pass an ordinance rescinding that power from the mayor and restoring it to the council, who could then vote whether or not to terminate the chief of police.

While the council met in executive session, ostensibly called to discuss Riley’s “good name and character,” Riley told the Times-Journal he is proud of what he has accomplished in Selma in his position. Crime in Selma, he said, is down 20 percent from last year.

“I’m very pleased with what I’ve done in the years I have been here, absolutely,” Riley said. “We have even had some of the things we have done here recognized by the federal government — some of our task forces and things, so I’m very pleased.”

He said he looks at where the department was before he arrived and is pleased by the progress made in technology use, equipment attained and crime fighting ability.

“The only thing I have not done … is hire more officers and that is a funding issue not a hiring issue,” Riley said. “Also our officers go other places for better pay.”

Evans also defended Riley’s job, saying he thinks he is working as hard as he can with a smaller number of officers but there is always room for improvement.

“I had said last night I think he is working with a situation where there is not enough officers to do the job we need to do and certainly that is a handicap,” Evans said. “Under the current circumstances of the position that he holds I think that he is doing the best he can do under those circumstances.”

 

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