Clanton Police trying to catch up to new mandates

Published 9:19 pm Friday, February 6, 2009

The Clanton Police Department is one of many law enforcement agencies across the state that has to adapt to many new regulations mandated by the state.

Most of those regulations deal with eliminating a lot of paperwork that officers produce each day, especially dealing with electronic submission of wreck reports and citations.

Clanton Police Chief Brian Stilwell said the deadlines for the wreck reports is March, while the mandate for citations may be pushed back again. To do this, Stilwell said the department would have to install computers in each of the patrol cars.

“It is a pretty expensive project, but it’s something that we have to do,” he said during the Clanton Lions Club meeting yesterday.

Though the up front cost is high, it could pay off because the department could reduce data entry costs, especially since Clanton’s number of calls has spiked. In the last two months, the department has seen 1,100 more calls than during the same period the year before.

Stilwell said there has been an increase in certain kinds of crime, especially burglaries and thefts. One area in particular has been an increase in business burglaries.

“We’ve seen the ‘smash and grab’ burglaries where burglars will break a window and take whatever they can, but we don’t usually see many robberies,” he said.

The department is also in the process of upgrading its video cameras in patrol cars from analog to digital because officers are having trouble obtaining videocassettes for the cameras, and the digital cameras offer better features.

“When the lights come on, it burns up to a minute before the incident. Before, there would be a lag of five to ten seconds,” he said. “Now, there are even some digital cameras that constantly record.

Outside of equipment, Stilwell wants the department to play a better role in educating the community on the inner workings of a police force. He hopes to host a citizen’s police academy that will teach people what officers do and why they do it.

Another program the department may add in the future would be to have officers riding mountain bikes through town.

“Officers on bikes can be more personable with residents than those in police cars,” Stilwell said. “We want to do things that will improve our relationships in the community.”

The explorer program will continued be to help recruit new officers from Clanton. Stilwell said he plans to develop it and add a cadet/reserve program to attract and train more young officers.