Fairhope Mayor Karin Wilson recently hired Sgt. Tony Goubil to (right) the Fairhope Police Department without Chief Joe Petties’ authorization.
Photo | Lagniappe/Facebook
Police Chief Ed Delmore currently has openings for five police officers on the Gulf Shores force.
This month he and his staff will bring in about 50 candidates from a stack of about 100 applications to undergo “a lengthy and arduous process” to determine if any meet his department’s exacting requirements.
“If we only get one or we get zero, we’ll do it all over again,” Delmore said. “I’m not going to lower the bar and make a 20- or 30-year mistake. This is what a modern professional organization does when it hires a police officer.”
Fairhope Mayor Karin Wilson’s recent hire of Tony Goubil as a sergeant in that city’s police department has law enforcement officials from around the state talking about the process used to hire him. Wilson announced she had hired Goubil at a recent council meeting, surprising everyone in the room — including her city’s own police chief, Joseph Petties. Council members have said the mayor skirted rigid protocols for hiring sworn officers.
“I am not understanding how someone can be hired under my department without my knowledge and without any input from me,” Petties said in an email to Wilson. “This has been handled totally different than any hires in the past. I have been a police officer with Fairhope for 27 years and a sergeant has never been brought in from outside.”
In Gulf Shores, command-level officers are also grown from within through years of hard work and advancement, Delmore said. He didn’t speak specifically to Fairhope’s situation but focused on how he and his department handle new hires and promotions.
“The philosophy is if you can bring in people to the organization from the outside without going through the testing process, what message does that send to your organization?” Delmore said. “Why should I prepare myself for the promotional process and why should I expect that I’m going to get promoted if at any time they can just yank somebody in from the outside? At that middle management level, it’s very detrimental to the morale of the organization and the long-term effects of that are significant.”
Petties’ email said those types of effects are now festering within his department after Goubil’s secretive hiring by the mayor.
“My officers feel as though they weren’t given an opportunity to apply for the promotion and those that have gone through the process for promotion feel slighted,” Petties wrote to Wilson. “They feel that it’s not what you do, but who you know. The chain of command has been completely undermined, thus making it nonexistent.”
Petties said Monday morning he believed a solution was in the works.
“I met with the mayor and we’re trying to work together as a team because my belief is if we don’t it’s going to destroy the city,” Petties said. “There’s a lot of people getting involved in things, and things are getting to the point to where it’s creating more problems than solving the problems. I’m trying to just solve the problem.”
Delmore said in Gulf Shores the only non-tested positions are chief and assistant chief. All other hires and promotions are made through a step-by-step process. It starts with a simple application but becomes complicated quickly.
Candidates brought in must have passed a basic statewide aptitude test for police officers. Delmore says it scrutinizes for spelling, grammar and attention to detail, and mistakes can eliminate a candidate.
Those asked to come in for the daylong initial evaluation first face an orientation, physical agility tests and at 1 p.m. sit down for another written test “more significant than the state test.” Failing any of the physical tests or scoring less than 70 percent on the written test eliminates a candidate.
Any who continue to show promise will then face an intense oral interview with several members of the department’s command staff, a complete background check including interviewing family members, a polygraph test, scanning a candidate’s social media posts, a written and oral psychological assessment, and medical and drug screening.
“Then they are potentially offered a position,” Delmore said. Once on the force, if the officer has not been through the 13-week police academy, they must complete that course. Once on the street, they spend up to 14 weeks working alongside a veteran officer who eventually turns more and more duties over to the recruit.
Still, new officers are on a state-mandated probation for a year where they are constantly evaluated to gauge if they are a fit for the Gulf Shores Police Department.
“We’re not shy,” Delmore said. “If we find somebody that just doesn’t seem to be well-suited for this, isn’t adapting well to our organization or law enforcement in general, we’re not going to retain them.”