Brookside taps police veteran to rebuild community trust

Brookside taps police veteran to rebuild community trust

BROOKSIDE, Ala. (AP) — A police veteran has been tapped to help restore the image of an embattled town after allegations of aggressive policing for profit gained national attention.

Henry Irby was introduced Friday as Brookside’s interim police chief, al.com reported.

Irby, who retired as deputy chief of the Birmingham Police Department in 2018, said that the “challenge” of rebuilding trust within the community after the scandal in the Jefferson County town’s police department drew him to accept the job.

“Where there’s great challenge, there is also opportunity,” Irby said Friday. “My career has been dedicated to building the trust that is needed between residents and the police who are charged with their safety.”

Former Brookside Police Chief Mike Jones resigned in late January shortly after al.com published an investigation detailing how police in the town mobilized in recent years to extract fines and fees from local drivers and people passing by on Interstate 22. By 2020, nearly half of the town’s revenue came from fines and forfeitures.

The second in command also resigned, as did several Brookside police officers.

Mayor Mike Bryan said Friday that the Brookside police force currently included just four officers, down from its peak of 14. He said the municipal court, which had processed violations en masse, had been suspended “until further notice, indefinitely.” Bryan also referenced reforms implemented after the report, including pulling the town’s officers from patrolling I-22.

“We can get policing right here,” Irby said. “But we need to do it with the community. That’s how we get it right. Because our goal is to have a Brookside police department that treats everyone with dignity and respect.”

After the report was published, more allegations were filed about mistreatment at the hands of Brookside Police.

At a town hall this week, more drivers claimed they were stopped for little or no reason, searched, and had property confiscated and that police issued 11 or 12 tickets on a single traffic stop.

Bryan said all such claims will be investigated.

“Those are horror stories and I hope and pray they’re not true,” he said. “And nobody deserves that. And so in hiring a very competent individual like Chief Irby over here, we’re going to see through that process, and we’re going to try to figure out if those allegations are true.”