Bedsole begins revamping FPD

Published 11:59 pm Friday, December 26, 2008

Revamping the department’s public image and combating the city’s increasing drug problem are first on the “to do list” for new Florala police chief Sonny Bedsole.

Bedsole, who was hired to the post Monday, started to work Tuesday morning by “working on continuity between the department and the council” and by formulating a plan to show an immediate police presence within the community.

“The citizens of Florala are going to know that we are here and we are working,” Bedsole said. “One of the most immediate things people are going to notice is a friendlier police presence in the neighborhoods. There’s a balance to be struck between keeping the roadways safe from speeders and keeping our streets safe from crime.”

Bedsole held his first staff meeting Friday with his staff of six fulltime and three part-time police officers, and one of the first issues addressed was the police department’s public image, he said.

“Of the things I advise my officers is what I expect out of them and their conduct,” Bedsole said. “I believe in treating people fairly and with that being said, another issue to be addressed is how our officers will conduct themselves – their personal lives and their off duty conduct. Our number one issue is that if you are a Florala officer, it will be professionalism above all else.

“I expect officers to be courteous and polite and to enforce the law for everyone,” he said. “With that said, we’re not going to make everyone happy. We’re going to do what’s legal and what’s right.”

As with any city in the nation, the issues of both drug sales and drug use is a top priority for the police department, Bedsole said.

“The majority of the comments I get is about drug use and drug dealing,” he said. “The people know what’s going on in their neighborhoods and if they have a complaint, I want to know about it. Florala’s a small town, true; but you can’t know everything that happens here. I want honest public input on any issues (residents) have a concern about. We want to help. It’s our job – and that goes for officer conduct too, not just crimes. If the public has a complaint, I want to know about it.”

Bedsole said he plans to actively pursue a working relationship with the 22nd Circuit Drug Task Force in combating the city’s drug problem.

Currently, Bedsole is working with former acting chief and current department criminal investigator Chris Jackson on how to bring new technology and officers to the department, all while staying within budget.

First of the list is new police cars, followed by new in-car camera systems, he said.

“We have a severe equipment need in Florala,” he said. “Most of our cars have over 150,000 miles on them. We need camera systems, too. They protect the public and officers from false accusations. Unfortunately, all those items are expensive and there’s just not enough room in the budget.”

Bedsole said he hopes with the new presidential administration, more opportunities will be had to receive grant funds, which could cover the cost of new equipment and additional officers; however, until that time comes, the department will continue to work with what they have and people should soon see the results.

“People will be able to see an immediate change in this department,” he said. “I’ve seen and heard the criticisms (of the entire department), and I intend to prove those people wrong. It all falls back to having well trained officers that respect our citizens who just simply enforce the law with no favoritisms. My ultimate goal is to have this department known for its dedicated service to the community and the people in our jurisdiction.”