The Mobile Police Department (MPD) fired an officer last year after she was allegedly stopped under suspicion of DUI during her probationary employment period, but despite that, she was hired again on Dec. 9.
In response to a story first reported by NBC 15’s Andrea Ramey, MPD Chief Lawrence Battiste has acknowledged that officer Celina Lowe was rehired earlier this month despite being involved in an off-duty incident last fall that resulted in her being terminated for “conduct unbecoming of an officer.”
Lowe was originally hired in March 2018 and was let go from the department in November after she was reportedly stopped by a state trooper with the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) last fall. The stop was for an alleged suspicion of DUI, but Lowe has never been charged with any crime or arrested.
Noel Barnes, ALEA’s attorney, told Ramey there were no records relating to a traffic stop involving Lowe during that time. His office did not respond to calls from Lagniappe seeking confirmation of the report, but a lack of records is consistent with reports in which no action was taken by ALEA during the stop.
Ramey’s report cites “multiple law enforcement sources” who say Lowe was stopped under suspicion of DUI, flashed her badge, became belligerent and then — instead of being arrested — was released to MPD’s custody. That lines up with an account a former MPD employee gave to Lagniappe, but the department has not confirmed any details about what “unbecoming” conduct led to Lowe’s termination.
On Thursday, Ramey conducted an interview with Battiste on the subject that — unbeknownst to her — was live-streamed to the department’s Facebook page. It was later removed at the request of NBC 15’s news director because questions about unconfirmed allegations and personnel matters were asked.
Prior to the video being removed, a Lagniappe reporter took notes from the livestream, and after speaking with Ramey, is using comments Battiste made from the interview. Battiste said if some kind of agreement was made to release Lowe to MPD’s custody the night she was stopped, he didn’t know about it.
“I never made an agreement with anybody,” Battiste said. “I never sat down with anyone from the [State] Trooper’s office. I never sat down with anyone involved in the investigation.”
What Battiste did say was that Lowe’s conduct merited a suspension, but under the rules of the Mobile County Personnel Board, employees in their “working test period” who require disciplinary action beyond a verbal counseling or a written letter of reprimand are to be terminated.
“We were dealing with an issue that doesn’t give you any options. If we would have suspended her — even for an hour — based on personnel board rules, we were required to terminate her employment,” Battiste said. “Had she been beyond that period, we would have been able to suspend her for a period of time.”
According to Ramey’s report, after leaving MPD last fall, Lowe was was hired by the Prichard Police Department (PPD) in March. Neither officials with PPD nor the city of Prichard responded to calls from Lagniappe seeking to confirm her employment there.
An MPD spokesperson said this week that, because an arrest was never made, Lowe was allowed to return the force on Dec. 9. Battiste did note that, because Lowe had already gone through training and the police academy, she was able to be brought back on without more upfront investment by the city.
“I met with the employee, and I believe that the employee had matured beyond the incident that occurred,” Battiste said. “And considering the investment that the city placed in that employee that we never got any benefit from, I thought it was appropriate to bring that employee back.”
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