By Scott Johnson and Dale Liesch
The Mobile City Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to confirm the appointment of Paul Prine to police chief.
Prine will serve as the third chief of the Mobile Police Department under Mayor Sandy Stimpson, following Executive Director of Public Safety Lawrence Battiste and Chief of Staff James Barber. Councilors praised the selection at a regular meeting Tuesday, Oct. 12. Councilman Fred Richardson said Prine had worked to reduce crime as a captain over a precinct in District 1.
“Chief Prine worked in the third precinct for five years and we saw crime drop by 26 percent,” Richardson said. “Nobody believed it could happen, but it did.”
The retiring councilman credited Prine’s willingness to make himself available to the public as one of the factors in crime reduction. Richardson said he went to community meetings and gave out his cell number to residents. Moves like that, he said, help build trust.
“If you build trust, residents give police information,” Richardson said. “To have such an officer now leading the Mobile Police Department and implementing those procedures, we could see that same 26 percent drop in crime across the city.”
Councilwoman Bess Rich said pulling a chief up from within the ranks as Stimpson did with Prine is a compliment to the department and speaks to the “professionalism” of the force.
“It gives citizens a sense that everyone on the force is exemplary,” she said.
Rich also said Prine’s commitment to move into the city of Mobile is very important. She said she makes that a priority when considering the confirmation of an appointment.
“It allows the chief to be integrated into the community,” she said.
Prine got the endorsement of Council Vice President C.J. Small because of his background. Small said he, at first, was hopeful the chief pick would come from outside the organization, because the crime issue had not improved under current leadership. However, Prine’s almost two decades living in a Prichard housing project changed Small’s mind.
“He told me he lived in Alabama Village for 19 years and I said, ‘sold,’” Small said. “Chief Prine told me and showed me he could relate to those committing crime in the community.”
Councilman John Williams, who initially voted to delay the confirmation to have a chance to meet with Prine one-on-one, also praised Stimpson’s choice.
“There’s no question in my mind we picked the right one,” Williams said. “So, to the police: buckle your seatbelts; here we go.”
Prine was chosen over five other candidates, including interim chief Roy Hodge. After a 38-year career in law enforcement, Hodge decided to retire last week.
Hodge became interim police chief in March, following the promotion of Battiste to Mobile’s executive director of public safety. A city spokesperson confirmed with Lagniappe on Wednesday, Oct. 6 that Hodge had retired.
Lagniappe contacted Mobile County Communications District Director Charlie McNichol by email Friday, Oct. 8 to ask about rumors Hodge would be hired as an assistant director for the 911 Board. McNichol quickly dismissed the notion as untrue. Hodge is listed as the 911 Board’s chairman on its website. Mobile County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Lori Myles told the newspaper she has no knowledge of Hodge seeking employment with the department, though she acknowledged those rumors were being spread.
Hodge’s career with the department began in 1983 when he served as a cadet before becoming a police officer, graduating from Class Eight of the Mobile Police Academy in 1986. Through his promotions from officer to corporal to sergeant to lieutenant, Hodge has held a variety of assignments. After serving in the Traffic Safety Unit as a motorcycle officer and a Traffic Homicide investigator, Hodge moved to the First Precinct in April 2004 when he was promoted to sergeant. He later was assigned to Central Events, First and Second Precincts and the Intelligence Unit before being named First Precinct commander in December 2013. He was promoted to lieutenant captain in July 2014 where he served until he was appointed assistant chief of operations in April 2018.
Attempts to reach Hodge for comment were unsuccessful.
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