I wish I could say your column “Should We Feel Safe” conjured up humorous images of Barney Fife crushing the suspect’s leg in the car door while trying to arrest him, in a manifestation of Barney’s ordinary misjudgment and incompetence. And, in a way, the “comedy of errors” you encountered while attempting to aid your wife after her near attack was so dysfunctional it has humorous derivatives.
But the answer to the question raised in the title of your article is “no.” We are paying Police Chief Lawrence Battiste and Public Safety Director Jim Barber six-figure salaries. The lack of professionalism and lack of respect for citizens’ rights you encountered reflects on them.
The attitudes and emphases at the top of an organization work themselves down through the organization and are reflected in the actions of its employees. And at the very top of the organization is Mayor Stimpson, who is responsible for seeing that Barber and Battiste perform.
Battiste and Barber need to make it clear to their staff that their salaries are paid by the citizens of Mobile and that they work for us. Officers should be trained to be more interested in protecting citizens than in getting out of work by releasing suspects without even reviewing available video evidence, as was available in your wife’s case.
There should be zero tolerance for violation of civil rights, and more frequent periodic training set up to instill the importance of this. The First Amendment rights you cited are very important and just as important are Fourth Amendment rights. Every Fourth Amendment action (search and seizure) should be personally reviewed by Battiste or Barber for justifiability before being presented to a judge. This is a way in which the message will be clearly communicated to the staff that respecting civil rights is important.
Mobile Judicial Adviser Charlie Graddick was also mentioned in your article as the individual responsible for being sure magistrates are positioned appropriately around town so that warrants can be signed. We are also paying him a six-figure salary. Perhaps the title of your article should have been, “Are we getting our money’s worth?”