Prichard Mayor Troy Ephriam announced today that former interim police chief Michael Rowland will serve as the city’s new director of public safety.
“The role of public safety director is to make sure that at a most critical time right now, that the operation, the internal investigations as needed – in concert with the DA’s office, the FBI, the Alabama Bureau of Investigation – will maintain its continuity and its integrity,” Ephriam said. “It is clearly important to understand that at a time such a this, especially in the investigation of the loss of Hiawayi Robinson, that the necessary police leadership that we have established and exemplary administrative oversight and experience maintains its ability from the city of Prichard’s end.“
Ephriam praised Rowland’s leadership and used the words “critical” and “instrumental” to describe how his role in the Robinson murder investigation played into his decision of appointing him as public safety director.
“You can ask any of the other agencies, without his leadership, I don’t think we’re where we are,” he said.
Ephriam also noted that he is “very pleased” with Rowland’s leadership thus far and that he has received “rave reviews” from the ABI, FBI and DA’s office.
“We have basically been fortunate … that we’ve been able to tap a top notch guy to lead this police department,” he said. “We have not reached down. We have, in fact, reached up and we have the best that we can afford doing the job we expect him to do.”
During the Prichard City Council meeting last night, Ephriam said he attempted to provide councilmembers with a “contract for hire,” which would have allowed Rowland to move into the role of police chief permanently. However, the councilmembers did not uphold the contract, he said.
Ephriam said there were no “substantive” reasons given by the councilmembers as to why they chose not to affirm the contract, leading him to believe it was a “contractual issue.”
Ephriam noted public safety as the most important issue as the city of Prichard strives forward to establish other progressive means of making the city stronger and better in the region and for Mobile County.
Rowland’s salary as public safety director will “fall right in line” with the $85,000 annual salary set aside for police chief within the city’s budget and in this role, he will directly oversee police operations and if necessary, any operations regarding the fire department, Ephriam said.
According to Ephriam, Prichard has not had a public safety director since around 1995-1999, which was before his own time as a councilmember beginning in 2001.
Despite the council’s decision, Ephriam said he expects no push back from his decision, and Rowland said he and the council have been successful working together and believes that success will continue.
“I’m certainly happy about being able to carry on with the direction that we’ve done in the last three months,” he said. “I’m feeling good about it.”
As far as the search for a new police chief, Ephriam said they are not going to rush the process and that the city will find necessary funding if they feel it necessary to bring in someone from the outside. If a current member of the police force is named police chief, there would be no compensation factors, he said.
“I think at the end of the day, myself, my council, we all want public safety to be established for the city of Prichard,” Ephriam said. “Contractual issue or not, today’s decision ensures that we are able to stay in line with that.”
Meanwhile, there have still been no arrests in the Robinson case.