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Elbert Rogers in P-H Metro section today
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LJBlazerFan Offline
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Post: #1
 
I had no idea Elbert was training to be a UAB police officer. I believe former Blazer football players Barry Bearden and Norman Anchrum are Birmingham officers, as are former football players Pat Green and Sandy Jackson.



Police shortage


City academy losing graduates to area agencies


By WILLIAM C. SINGLETON III
BIRMINGHAM POST-HERALD

Elbert Rogers entered the Birmingham Police Academy to follow a family tradition and to be a role model to young people.
"My grandfather on my mom's side was chief of police in Louisville, Ky. ... My grandfather on my father's side was a police chief in Mississippi," he said. "Once I came back from overseas, I knew this was something I wanted to do."

At 6 feet, 8 inches, the former University of Alabama at Birmingham and international basketball player won't have to worry about people looking up to him.

Rogers is one of 52 law enforcement recruits trying to make their way onto a city or county police force. Birmingham hopes they'll eventually wear the blue and gold Magic City emblems that adorn city police officers' uniforms.

But graduates of the Birmingham Police Academy are not obligated to join the city's force. The academy has become a feeder for nearly 20 area law enforcement departments and departments as far away as Montgomery and Atlanta. And that leaves the Birmingham police force constantly replenishing its ranks.

"I've been here 22 years, and we're always in a hiring process," said Lt. Allen Hatcher of the Birmingham Police Academy. "We're always kind of short through attrition and retirement, and the hiring process is kind of tough sometimes because this is not a job for everybody."

Birmingham has 796 sworn officers with 121 vacancies, according to police Lt. Henry Irby, public information officer. Irby said 43 recruits from the current academy class have indicated they plan to join the Birmingham police force once they graduate April€29.

"With this class we wanted to hire 65," Birmingham Police Chief Annetta Nunn said. "We only were actually able to get 53. By the time you get through doing all your testing," that number could be even fewer, she said. Hatcher said recruits had eight weeks to pass a physical fitness test. Three did not pass that test and had to withdraw from the academy.

Birmingham is now recruiting prospective candidates for the next academy, a 22-week course that involves training in firearms, defensive tactics, driving and other basic police work. The state's standard training curriculum takes 12 weeks, which makes Birmingham's academy recruits even more desirable because they're better trained, Hatcher said.

"We have a lot more time for situation training for things like handling the emotionally disturbed," he said. "So we feel like we get a better-qualified officer out on the street."

Ideally, the police academy would like to hold two classes a year. But a lack of qualified candidates and a lawsuit settlement that forced the restructuring of the Jefferson County Personnel Board have hampered consistent recruitment efforts.

"We're so dependent on the Jefferson County Personnel Board," Hatcher said. "They do the civil service exams for police officers. They had been giving it here recently once a year. To get a class of 52, we went through 300 names, so if they don't have any more applicants or enough qualified applicants, we can't start another hiring process until they get another list."

Nunn said the number of applicants has declined through the years.

"In years past, you had a list of 400 or 500 people to choose from," she said.

Nunn suspects the decline in applicants may be due to people seeking higher-paying, less dangerous jobs. "Some people go for the higher-paying jobs," she said. "Law enforcement was seen at one time as the noble career, but you have to have a calling for that."

Hatcher said the Police Academy used to get its share of military personnel. But the voluntary aspect of the military has cut down on the overall number of police recruits, he said.

Even if the academy gets a class of 52 candidates, there's no assurance those officers will end up with the Birmingham Police Department.

"There's 20-something municipalities that hire off that list plus the county," Hatcher said. "That pool, even though it's sometimes kind of large, we go through it fairly quickly."

Birmingham Police Sgt. Allen Treadaway, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, said the manpower shortage within the city Police Department is due to the current salary structure.

"I walked into a guy who's been here seven years who quit to go to Alabaster," Treadaway said.

Alabaster recently increased their starting pay from $28,000 to $36,500 annually, Treadaway said.

"He saw that, went down to interview, and they hired him on the spot," he said.

Birmingham police officers are underpaid compared to their colleagues over the mountain and in north Shelby County.

The Jefferson County Personnel Board recently released its revised salary scale for law enforcement departments in Jefferson County. Birmingham police ranked at the low end for beginning officers at $28,142 annually.

That's lower than the county sheriff's department ($28,496), Gardendale ($30,368), Homewood ($31,803), Hoover ($37,752), Hueytown ($29,203), Mountain Brook ($31,657), Trussville ($31,553), Vestavia Hills ($31,595), Alabaster ($36,582) and Pelham ($44,316).

With the possible exception of the county, Birmingham police cover more territory and protect more residents than their counterparts in other municipalities.

Birmingham's officers are more desirable to the suburban departments because they deal with more situations than officers in smaller towns, Treadaway said.

"Every time these cities try to find officers, they come to the city of Birmingham to get their officers because the training here is the most intense and because of the experience," Treadaway said. "You get an officer out here with two or three years' experience, and you've got something. And the cities know that."

Hatcher agreed.

"If an officer works for the city of Birmingham for two years, he may come into contact with more varied situations than an officer who works in a small department would in 20 years," he said. "They know if they get a guy who's been working here, who's a good officer, he can probably handle anything out there on the street." Rogers, 34, isn't likely to be lured away from Birmingham by more dollars.

As a former international basketball player who played in Spain, Argentina and Venezuela, Rogers has saved enough money not to be as troubled by the low pay, he said.

"I am in a different position," he said, laughing. "I managed to save money and put money away. But I don't really talk about it. I'm just a recruit. Everybody's first name is a recruit. We just do it like that."

But he's not unsympathetic.

"Anybody put their life on the line everyday for citizens, they should be compensated for it," Rogers said. "I think that's the main thing for Birmingham. A lot of people don't want to go through the process because it's the money."

Jonathan Williams, the oldest recruit in this year's class, whom fellow recruits have labeled "Old Man Williams," said he wanted to become an officer to better relate to his community.

"Most communities are in the range of 35 and up," said the 47-year-old former private security guard. "And most of these young guys coming into police work now are between 20 and 30, and when you send a 21-year-old to a domestic disturbance involving people 45 or 47, sometimes they may look at it like Ãhere's a young kid trying to tell me what to do.'

"I figure my age may bring more of a calmness to the situation."

Rogers also believes he owes it to the community to be an officer with the city.

"Even though I live in Inverness, Birmingham is my home. They say that people come through Birmingham and transfer out to Homewood and Hoover, but that's not my intention," he said. "I know a lot of people on the force, and so far everybody's treating us like family. And I'm big on family."
02-07-2005 11:18 PM
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Post: #2
 
You beat me by a millisecond with the story. And you ruined my trivia question. :rofl:
02-07-2005 11:20 PM
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Post: #3
 
My apologies.
02-07-2005 11:21 PM
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Blazer Deli Offline
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Post: #4
 
Birmingham should quit worrying about this pipe dream of a dome and get some well paid police on the street.
02-07-2005 11:45 PM
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Memphis Blazer Offline
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Post: #5
 
If I was a criminal, I would not want to run into Elbert in my getaway. :smokie:
02-07-2005 11:54 PM
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Post: #6
 
Blazer Deli, no doubt about that. I can't believe that the city is almost $12 million over budget just for operating costs for police, fire and public works for the next five months.
02-08-2005 12:10 AM
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BlazerPhil Offline
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Post: #7
 
Memphis Blazer Wrote:If I was a criminal, I would not want to run into Elbert in my getaway. :smokie:
I bet he is huge now.
02-08-2005 09:26 AM
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