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COLUMN: Clanton PD will work to regain trust

Published 9:42pm Monday, February 7, 2011

By Brian Stilwell | Special to the Advertiser

My department acted inappropriately and has lost some of the trust of the citizens we serve in dealing with the traffic stop of the Homewood police chief.

The actions of the officers that work for me are completely my responsibility, and I accept full blame for any loss in trust. The fact is the officer who made the stop is exceptional, well-trained, and serves the city of Clanton well.

Also, police officers have a large amount of discretion when it comes to performing their duties. We don’t know that the police chief was above the legal limit for driving under the influence of alcohol, and we will never know because we did not perform proper testing—and for that I am sorry.

So, what happens next? We will take our lumps, learn from this mistake, train, work to earn back what trust is lost, and continue to work toward enforcing the law fairly, honestly and justly to all those whom live, work or visit our beautiful community.

I hope I began that regaining of trust back by being forthright and not hiding or sweeping this incident under the rug. All of us who wear a badge, whether it is a shield or a star, need to remember that we are not above the law. We enforce the law, and we can only do that with the trust of our citizens—trust that is earned by our actions, our words, and by our faith.

We must be of the utmost character in both our professional and personal lives, be leaders in the community, and remember why we all got into this profession in the first place: to serve the public.

I again want to say this is a good officer who made a decision he thought was proper on the side of the road dealing with a chief of police—a decision that in hindsight was not correct. I accept full responsibility, I truly apologize, and I promise we will learn from this incident and become a better department and better officers today, tomorrow and in the future.

“Character is doing the right thing when no one is looking.” Thanks for allowing me to serve as your chief.

–Brian Stilwell is Clanton’s Chief of Police.

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  • Rickey

    KLE –
    I am genuinely sorry that you were treated unfairly by a police officer. There’s not a worse feeling in the world than knowing that you’ve been “wronged” and by an officer of the law just makes it worse. And that feeling of seemingly not being able to do anything about it just makes it that much more worse. I know it won’t make you feel any better nor will it right a wrong, but just know that you are the bigger man! You’re a better man than any bald-face lieing cop will ever be. I urge you to find it within yourself to restore your respect for the men and women in blue — do it for you, not necessarily for them. There’s a bad apple in every bunch and this applies to every occupation, I’m sure you’re intelligent enough to already know this so don’t let me get on any soap box :)
    There’s a saying in Spanish: Qué circunda viene alrededor” which roughly translates as “What goes around, comes around”. Any future job prospects for the officer who wronged you is going to be tough. Potential bosses are going to know that he was once a police officer and you can imagine what the next question is going to be when they learn that he was fired! Fired as a police officer! It raises serious questions. I like your definition of the word “character” Webster’s could not have defined it any better.

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  • KLE

    “Character is doing the right thing when no one is looking.”

    When I was a young man I got into some trouble, but felt I was innocent and looked forward to being heard by the Judge.

    That kangaroo trial changed my whole respect of the Men in Blue when the officer lied straight faced to the Judge.
    Never would I have believed a police officer would ever lie to win a case. But he did and I suffered for many years .
    Lost a piece of my naive innocence that day.

    About a year later that officer was eventually fired.
    Among other things the noose that took his job was when he tried to blackmail a person he did not know, but the community did know very well, into sex.
    She took her moving violation ticket, called her husband, and with lawyer in tow, went to the chief and mayor.
    Her word alone, so pure, sealed his fate.

    He should have been persecuted and sen tensed to prison, but he was only fired.

    Police officers are to adhere to a higher standard.
    And lying to prove a case is giving in to evil which you have swore to stand against.

    The law is the law and the Police Chief that had been drinking should be tried even with limited evidence.
    The piers of twelve can weigh the evidence.

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  • JOKER

    Ricky–take it easy partner,,no need for a coranary.I agree w/you;perks are not a paid part of the job but,it happens.I have a friend who used to give breaks to law enforcement (because he appreciates what they do)on their meals.When the economy got bad he couldn’t continue w/the breaks(volume is off) law enforcement went other places.I’m not sure where jane gets her info. but as far out in left field as she is– a portion of the junk is true.I like what wasacop thinks ” police not Above the Law”.one cop crews up ;the rest take it on the chin.The cop who screwed up didn’t make a rookie mistake-he’s a vetran.Dosen’t seem like Stillwell took any disciplinary actions.Did you catch his T.V. appearance.He’ll run for Sheriff or Mayor,,,he’s a politician and has all the rite moves.Police wont police themselves because the “who you know” policy is in place.One cop wont tell on the other because the one told on might be pals w/the one told to,or be related to the one screwing up.Retalliation is tough on a good guy…..I know spelling sucks—later.

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  • Rickey

    janebond is all kind of wrong on this one. How could we have possibly gotten the “fact” that she is an ex-law enforcement family member; so you’re kin to somebody who use to be a cop … we could care less! The “perks” she mentions clearly do happen, but it IS NOT part of the job description and IS NOT a professional manner in which to execute one’s profession. And her assertion that “deal with it because you can’t do anything about is” is just plain ignorant. And how dare that heifer say that “police officers continue to do your job”. Police officers are doing their work — the work they chose to do and are paid to do it, and most of them do an excellent job. I am proud of them and my own trust has not wained at all just because the unprofessionalism of one cop makes the news.
    Sure Jane may know the Chief and the other two officers; she may know who their uncles and aunts and third cousins once removed are; she may know which kid is missing which tooth; she may know the name of the family pet too BUT this ain’t got nothing to do with nothing! No offense intended, but thank God she, herself, didn’t go into police work. Stick to what you know, and I gather that that ain’t much. Okay, admittedly that last barb was a bit insulting, so I recind it. But I have spoken my piece!

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  • wasacop

    Trust of the people will be gained when a vast majority of police officers realize that they are not ABOVE the law. The most obvious example is speed laws. How many of us have been driving the speed limit on the Interstate and been passed by a police car driving well in excess of the posted speed limit?

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  • janebond

    Boys boys boys,all that discussion.And for what?Facts,get the facts first.Fact is I’m an ex-law enforcement family member,I know the program.Police help police.Police consider speeding,officer discretion,flashing a badge,covering for fellow officers,recieving a few gifts along the way are part of the perks enjoyed by law enforcement.It’s been happening,and will continue to happen ,as long as there is lawmen.DEAL WITH IT!!!You can’t do anything about it as long as NO ONE KNOWS.Occasionally some one will slip up and get caught screwing up.What do police do?–we help police.THe only thing that can be done to that officer is a little corrective officer training as to “how to do that and not get caught next time”.—–If your family member needed help wouldn’t and haven’t you helped them.Police are a family !For the most part we belive that what we do is right;sometimes things get a little sloppy,but for the most part our hearts are in it for the long haul.
    I know Chief Stillwell,I know the other 2 officers that made the stop and I know who their uncles are….for the most part they are good people(not perfect at all).But good law enforcement people and superiors.Remember police help police and family helps family.In a little while all will be forgave and for gotten.Trust will be restored and everything will be back to normal.It’s not like a feloney was committed.
    Policemen/women of chilton co.continue to do your jobs,help people and each other,and don’t let a few radicals who ” don’t have a clue as to what’s happening in the real world” change your values and standards.
    Anybody got a complaint call a cop,,,they’ll be glad to help.

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    • Crimusk8t

      Wow…Jane…. I am really glad that you have come forth with this information. It confirms what I (and pretty much everyone else) have long known- cops give or get “family discounts” when they fail to abide by the law(s) they are sworn to uphold.

      I am sure you are totally OK with this-however,there are some of us…um,”less connected” citizens that believe that LEO’s should be held to at least the same standard that we civilians are held to…if not higher.

      I got the short end of the stick with those “favors” once many years ago as a domestic violence victim whose abuser was not held the 24 hours that was required at the time. I am LUCKY to be alive…really.

      But,hey, it’s a perk…I am glad I am still alive to “DEAL” with it,and will do so everyday for the rest of my life.

      What you fail to see is that by writing your “tell all” you have proven that the public cannot possibly ever really fully trust the police…and called out the people you intended to “support”.

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  • JOKER

    If I didn’t know better I think these responses were Chief Stillwell himself.
    The word “great” means VERY LARGE IN SIZE OR VOLUME;more than ordinary;cosiderable;remarkable;impressive;eminent;renowned;very good or first rate.
    Principles–the fundamental law or truth upon which others are based,a moral standard.
    Circumstance–a fact or condition that must be considered when making a decision.
    Considering the definitions I don’t see Stillwell being equal to Gen.Geo.S.Patton.The next thing you hear is that he walks on water.
    We/I appreciate the “Professional”police and what they do.Those of you who Believe in what you do “keep on Keeping on”.The noblest of you have to police your selves.When you take the Oath-it doesn’t exclude fellow officers.
    All this talk of “officer descretion”,,,,Made a mistake,,,it’s allrite it’s just a little thing,,,,I don’t think it was a cover up,,,,people make infrequent wrong choices……..next thing you’ll know is the police start making the law as they go and the next thing you know Judge Bush,Fuller and Reynolds will be unemployed.
    All I’m trying to say is–covering something up is like uncovering cat dung;when you get to the kitty ditty it still STINKS.
    A not-so-great person told me “Real leaders lead by example.Want-to-be’s,,just tell you “handle it”.
    My opinion is not intended to offend anyone,,I believe wright is wright and wrong is wrong and if you don’t you ain’t rite.

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  • Travlr

    The officer acted exactly as he should have. He made an observation and made a responsible decision not to let the suspect continue to operate the vehicle. The fact that the suspect was an officer should not even be brought into the equation. But at the same time the attending officer should use responsible reasoning with any suspect. Some people make infrequent wrong choices, while others seem to pray on a lifestyle of bad choices. I am not condoning anyone driving under the influence of any substance (assuming) but I’m not going to act like a screaming idiot just because the guy didn’t get thrown in jail and lose his retirement either.

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  • mack13

    OK folks…. what we have here is a clear case of “I’m not real sure what to do.” The officer at least got the guy off the road. No one working any profession can be expected to have all the answers all the time. The Clanton PD does a great job every day, and one mistake does not take away from that. All of you who have never made a blunder at work please raise your hands…. no hands raised, that’s what I thought.

    All of you LEO’s at the Clanton PD just keep on doing what you do every day to keep us safe. We all appreciate that.

    just my .02

    mack

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  • N. Cognito

    In the event that there was some type of misconduct on the officers part, I assure you that Chief Stilwell would have addressed it. In his time at the department we have made great strides in the right direction(up)and the Chief himself has made sacrifices to give his officers better equipment. He drives one of the worst vehicles in the fleet and has obtained new or better vehicles for his officers, that says a lot about his character. To me this shows a necessary quality for being a great leader, the ability to sacrifice of yourself for the benefit of others. This same quality is necessary in Family, Country and God. His employees should be grateful for the quality of leadership that he has displayed.

    “A leader is a man who can adapt principles to circumstances.”
    - reportedly – General George S. Patton, Jr

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  • JOKER

    You gota give credit to Stillwell for not throwing the officer under the bus for his actions.Can’t say that much for our Sheriff-he ran off,fired and sacrificed 13 good men his first 4 years & with threats of the same this term ;all in the name of politics and christanity.There are rumors that Stillwell is looking to run in the next sheriffs race.That department can use some “real” supervision !!
    Brian—did you know about the chief of police (Homewood)being stopped before he was let go or after?The truth will set you free.

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  • jeralyn4313

    Here we go again that thin line between right and wrong! A veteran policeman was given “professional courtesy” or so it was written up. FACT..the policemen of Clanton have given many people a second chance when the situation called for it as do policeman all over the country..it’s called a “judgement call”!! This guy just happened to be very “news worthy” and got his name smeared all over the papers causing him to have to retire! Come on now it is done all the time and you know it and has been as long as I have been aware that there was cops and cars! And thank goodness Chief Stilwell defended his policeman!! Now having said that there are dirty cops out there and everyone knows who they are HOWEVER something is being done about that too…one cop at a time as the Sherriff promised. And an apology was made by the Homewood Chief in the form of a resignation….does not get much clearer than that!!!

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  • rogerware

    Chief, I have always put police officers in the same category with military personnel. They perform their duties to protect the laws of the land and their lives are in jeopardy from the moment they go on duty. I appreciate your comments concerning the I-65 incident and I’m absolutely sure that all of your officers will benefit and learn from the situation. I grew up in Clanton, left after HS and spent 24 years in the USAF (2 tours in Viet Nam). I no longer live in the community but I visit my mother often and I can see as well as hear about the wonderful job your department is doing. I am absolutely sure that whatever public confidence that may have been lost will soon be regained and a high level of confidence will prevail. BE SAFE

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  • 1oldman

    Chief,
    Professional Courtesy as I have always heard it called has always been a sore spot for me. When one expects professional courtesy, had they been acting in a professional manner, would not expect, nor would they need to be afforded that professional Courtesy, nor would they have just embarrassed the profession that you choose to serve in, nor would he have embarrassed the fellow officers that he works with.
    Too many officers expect to be treated with kid gloves, and therefore find themselves doing things that they should not, and wind up as an embarrassment to the honorable profession of law enforcement. I don’t know at the times I heard comments like, One day I’m going to see you on my treatment table and I will be holding the needle or some such statement. The one thing I found for sure was that when I used their services, payment was expected up front, or a bill was forth coming, so I never understood the term professional courtesy.
    If I may, I would suggest doing away with the unwritten policies that we all have been taught exist, and draw a policy of guideline to spell out what discretions one has, and limits on them, and make sure the training officers use them with new officers.
    Keep and train safe as well. It appears to me the assault of LEO’s is only growing, and we have enough statistics.
    Incidentally, The ex top cop of Homewood owes your department as well as his a public apology, but don’t hold your breathe for it is unlikely to be forthcoming.

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