3 named FPD chief finalists

Published 11:59 pm Friday, December 12, 2008

Leo M. “Sonny” Bedsole, Chris Jackson and Tim Hardage were named Friday as the finalists for Florala’s new police chief.

The three were among four semifinalists who interviewed for the position in front of Mayor Robert Williamson and council members Gloria Cassady, Jimmy Waldrop and Marvin Williford.

Candidates were questioned for 45 minutes on what their plans for the department would be if they were hired; how to adequately run their department in regards to budgeting and personnel and how police officers should conduct themselves both on and off duty.

Interviewed were the top three candidates and former Covington County Sheriff Anthony Clark.

Clayton Police Chief Robert C. Patrick was selected as a semifinalist, but did not appear for the interview.

One of the main concerns for each candidate was ways to “rebuild the department’s image.”

“It’s all about rebuilding the relationships between the police department and the community,” Bedsole said. “Police officers are held to a higher standard than others and they personally represent this department. Officers should behave to a level that is respectable, and that includes time outside of the department.”

Bedsole said, if hired, it is a goal he thinks can accomplish fairly quickly.

“You’re always going to have someone who is not pleased about the way things worked out,” he said. “I can honestly say I have always done things on a professional level. If you do your job and do it right, not everyone will like you.

“I want our officers to toe the line,” he said. “I think we can turn this department around in six months.”

Each of the candidates agreed the main focus of the department should be a concept called “community policing.”

“To me, community policing is about building relationships with the community,” Hardage said during his interview. “Florala is not just (U.S. Hwy.) 331 and in front of the airport. It’s in our neighborhoods.”

Bedsole agreed.

“There are things that need to be done in our community — like checking doors and meeting our business owners — for our officers to do instead of playing (State) trooper on 331,” Bedsole said.

Jackson said, if hired, his first task would to be to do a complete inventory of the entire department.

“From the inventory room up,” Jackson said. “If you don’t know what you’ve got to start with, how can you know what you need?”

The position of Florala’s police chief has been vacant for more than two years after Bruce Maddox resigned for health reasons. Capt. Mark Anderson filled in as acting chief until his resignation last month, and Jackson was named as his replacement until a permanent chief is hired.

Citizens will have the opportunity to meet and question the three finalists Sunday at a reception from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m. at the old National Guard Armory.

A hiring decision is expected by the end of the year.

Editor’s note: Our Web site is having technical difficulties and we are currently unable to provide video of the interviews. We apologize for the inconvenience and are working to resolve the problem, so we can bring our readers more varied content.