Collier gives update on public safety

Published 9:37 am Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Selma Police Department (SPD) Chief Spencer Collier gave an update on public safety to the Selma Rotary Club at a luncheon on Monday.

“A few things going on you may have noticed some changes that we are re-aligning. We are in desperate need of officers,” Collier said. “When I got here, we had 38 officers. I have been here for two years now and it goes by fast. The mandate I have is get that number to 60. That is what we are budgeted for. We got to 56 and the budget this year cut us to 45. Unfortunately, we lost officers through attrition, retirement and some taking other jobs. We were not able to replace them so in telling you that, 45 is not enough officers for a city our size.’s favorite story is to talk about is how much Selma is shrinking,” Collier said. “From a law enforcement perspective, you have to keep in mind in Alabama we are the last part of the country that has a police jurisdiction. We cover three miles outside our city limits. We should be policing between 60 and 70 officers when you consider the rate of crime per capita that we are dealing with. This is not a stat that I’m proud of and it is not one that I like to share, but we have to deal with reality to solve problems … per capita our violent crime rate is higher than Chicago’s. That is unacceptable. Our community is better than that.”

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However, additional funding was found in the form of a grant.

“What has saved us this year is that we were able to get a Justice and Systems (JAG) grant that allows us to pay for officer overtime,” said Collier. “I have officers that work 80 hours a week every week, and would work more if they were able to. We have right sized in the amount of officers with a proper attitude at the Selma Police Department now. Don’t believe that morale is low at the police department. It’s probably the best it’s ever been in my tenure.”

Collier also talked about partnerships with other state and federal agencies.

“The Selma Police Department has no better partner than the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF),” he said. “Any case we can, we are prosecuting at the federal level. We have created a law enforcement coordinating committee, and for a community this size, that’s unusual, but we have one and we have participation. The State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) has permanent boots on the ground assisting us and for the first time in my tenure in law enforcement, the Alabama Attorney General’s office is fighting street crime with the Selma Police Department. We are meeting with the Assistant U.S. Attorney and going over cases involving a gun and with every case involving violence, and if we can prosecute at the federal level, we will.”

There’s a reason in aiming for prosecuted criminals to serve time at a federal level.

“At the federal level, you serve at least 80 percent of your time,” said Collier. “We have cases now that we are trying to indict federally on firearms violations. They will serve 20 to 30 years on that federal charge as opposed a year in the state system. What we are battling at the state level, is a non-existent mental health system and a broken corrections system.”

Collier also gave credit to Selma City School Superintendent Dr. Avis Williams for beginning the agreement to have School Resource Officers (SRO) in the school system.

“We have been working with the Selma City School system to put together a plan to fund School Resource Officers,” said Collier. “The school system has stepped up and said they will pay half for five officers that includes training, insurance and everything else. In turn, they want the city to pay for the other two and a half. That would give five officers devoted to the Selma City Schools. Not just for active shooter situation but being role models for students as well. From a city standpoint that is investing 50 percent but getting 100 percent return.”