Police chief: Traffic stop of Homewood top cop was mishandled

Published 4:47 pm Thursday, February 3, 2011

Clanton Police Chief Brian Stilwell said Thursday his department mishandled a traffic stop earlier this week of Homewood Police Chief Phil Dodd.

An officer pulled Dodd’s red Dodge Charger over Monday near the 203-mile marker on Interstate 65 South. The stop happened about 1 p.m. after reports of the Charger’s erratic driving from other motorists.

During the stop, Dodd identified himself as Homewood’s police chief, Stilwell said.

Clanton’s officer did not smell alcohol but ultimately determined Dodd was too impaired to drive, Stilwell said. Dodd was brought back to the Clanton Police Department and the vehicle, which belonged to the city of Homewood, was towed away.

Officers from the Homewood Police Department picked Dodd up and later got the car out of impoundment.

Stilwell said officers will never know whether Dodd had been drinking but that a field sobriety test and a Breathalyzer would have usually been conducted in similar circumstances, given the erratic driving.

“We did not make the right choice,” Stilwell said. “The testing should have been done. The responsibility lies with me, and we’ll make sure it never happens again.”

Stilwell said officers have a lot of discretion out in the field but that Monday’s stop would be used as a training tool for the future.

“We will review the video tape and have a discussion about the use of discretion,” Stilwell said.

Stilwell said the officer who made the stop “is a good officer” and that a lesson was learned.

“If you felt he had been (possibly) drinking, you should have done the same thing you would have done for someone else,” Stilwell said.

Stilwell said at no time did Dodd or the city of Homewood try to use their influence to alter how the stop was handled.

Homewood Mayor Scott McBrayer confirmed Thursday that Dodd put in his retirement papers Tuesday after 35 years with the department, including three years as chief.

McBrayer wouldn’t speculate what impact, if any, Monday’s events had on Dodd’s decision to retire. The mayor said if Dodd were still with the department, the city would launch an investigation into the matter, but that’s moot now since he no longer works for the city.

“When Phil turned his retirement papers in Tuesday morning, he is no longer an employee of the city of Homewood,” McBrayer said.

McBrayer said Dodd had been considering retirement for some time and that he dedicated his life to protecting residents and businesses of Homewood.

“It’s the only place he’s ever worked, and we hate to see him go,” said McBrayer.