Walker addresses county security concerns

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 1, 2003

James Walker, Alabama’s Director of Homeland Security outlined the state’s plan for homeland security and the role Butler County officials will play in it, Tuesday, during the Greenville Kiwanis club’s weekly luncheon.

&uot;What we can’t ignore is that for more than 200 years – before Sept. 11 and homeland security – there were firefighters, emergency managers, police officers, sheriffs, emergency medical technicians and people in public works who rolled up their sleeves for many years to keep the peace and keep our communities safe,&uot; Walker said. &uot;They were here long before Sept. 11, and when homeland security stops being the catch phrase and the money starts to slow down from the federal government, these are the men and women who will still be here, working on behalf of the people.

The director said his department and the state government officials realize that these were the people they would have to work with to establish a working homeland security system.

&uot;What we have done with a legislative statute in mid-June is to establish a state cabinet level department of homeland security,&uot; Walker said. &uot;When Riley came into office, Alabama was the only state that hadn’t addressed homeland security. We went from being the only state that didn’t have anything to the first one to create its own department of homeland security.&uot;

Walker said now that the department has a budget, the office would begin hiring staff.

&uot;Now that we have state appropriations, we will begin hiring those who have experience commensurate with what we need in the department,&uot; he said. &uot;We will only hire about 20 personnel for the state office, since most of our work will be done with those officers already in the field.&uot;

Walker said he knows, despite the massive influx of federal funds currently being made available, interest and funds will taper off in a few years if no other terrorist attacks occur.

&uot;We have to make sure we use those dollars wisely and make good decisions,&uot; he said. &uot;We will have to do a safety assessment on each county – who many police officers and firefighters and what equipment they have – by the end of the year.&uot;

He said the department also would assess what safety concerns the county residents have pertaining to homeland security. Then the department will determine what equipment or personnel the county needs to allay those worries.

&uot;We will take what you have and measure it against what you are worrying about, and see what you need so you won’t be worried anymore,&uot; Walker said. &uot;That’s what your officials here in Butler County will be working on in the next couple of months.&uot;