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Robbery prompts Dozier to revisit police quandary

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By: Kendra Majors

Andalusia Star-News

For nearly four years, the town of Dozier has relied solely on the Crenshaw County Sheriff’s Office for patrol, and after last week’s robbery of the First National Bank of Dozier, people are beginning to question the logic.

Former Police Chief Terry Mears resigned in March 2013, and for more than a year, the town council mulled whether to hire a new police officer or contract with the Crenshaw County Sheriff’s Office to take over patrol.

Ultimately, they decided to contract with the county, with the Housing Authority and Town of Dozier paying for the majority of a deputy’s salary.

New Dozier Mayor Eugene Merrill said that amount equates to some $2,333 per month split between the two entities.

The Crenshaw County Commission is picking up the insurance and benefits.

With the arrangement, the county assumes the liability and the deputy is a contract employee of the county.

The town boasts a population of 329, according to the Census, and has a handful of businesses, including the First National Bank of Dozier, a convenience store and package store, restaurant, medical clinic and a building supply store.

On Thursday, Merrill said that he had invited Crenshaw County Sheriff Mickey Powell to the next council meeting, which is Jan. 9. Merrill said he had spoken to Powell who told them that they are short of deputies.

The mayor and Dozier resident Thomas Bush were dissatisfied that no one was on duty last Friday when the bank was robbed and that, while they were thankful for Covington County Sheriff Dennis Meeks’ being on the spot in such a timely manner, they feel that since the town and Housing Authority is chipping in the salary for a deputy in Dozier, there should have been a deputy in Dozier.

Merrill said that Powell told him he was interviewing a new deputy, who could move into the officer’s apartment in the Dozier Housing Authority.

“They don’t stay here enough,” Merrill said.

“And we are paying that much and ain’t getting the security.”

Bush said he was concerned that Friday’s robbery could have been much worse or that a similar situation could happen to any of the other local businesses in town.

Bush said that he had been told by deputies in the past that they were only coming to Dozier to serve papers.

The pair is also concerned about speeding through town.

“We have people who go down Main Street at 60 or 70 mph at 3 a.m.,” Merrill said.

Additionally, people travel through Water Street – a small, narrow side street posted 10 mph – at speeds greater than 25 mph, Bush said.

Additionally, log trucks speeding is also a problem.

“We have all these elderly people who live here,” Bush said.

“They need to be protected.”

Merrill said that one of the city council members reported that a lot of the older women in Dozier don’t like to sit outside on their porches anymore because of so many outsiders coming to the small town.

Additionally, he said that there is drug paraphernalia strewn through town.

Bush reported going weeks without seeing a deputy in the town.

Merrill said he would like to figure out a way to have a police presence in the town more often.

He said he believes it would cost the town some $80,000 a year to have its own officer when they factor in liability insurance, salary, benefits, transportation and other necessities.

On the flip side, Powell said that while there wasn’t a deputy actually in Dozier last Friday, he had a deputy on the way, but had gotten a call to investigate a four-wheeler theft.

Powell said he had just made a round through the town about an hour before the robbery took place.

As far as patrolling the town, Powell said he believes that they are patrolling the town a lot more than has been in years past when the town had one police officer.

“Even then, the county would help patrol Dozier,” he said.

“They don’t always see us down there, but we have patrol 24/7.”

Powell said they have one deputy assigned, but other deputies – including him – make their way to Dozier as well.

“We have been short-staffed,” he said.

“We just hired a new guy and it is my plan to move the new guy into the projects in Dozier. That’s currently in the process.”

Powell said the new deputy would reside in the projects.

“He’s going to do a good job,” he said.

“He has to get familiar with the people.”

Powell said there would undoubtedly be times when there are no law enforcement officers in the town.

“I have nine deputies and a county that is 600 square miles of territory to cover,” he said.

“But we are patrolling Dozier and the whole county.”