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Brantley council members want sheriff to stop putting roadblocks in town limits

A dual roadblock in the Brantley town limits has pitted members of the Brantley town council against the Crenshaw County sheriff. 

Last week, Crenshaw County deputies posted two roadblocks simultaneously at the intersection of Emmett Avenue and Fulton Avenue and Foster Street and Emmett Avenue.

Council members Daryl Elliott and Lorey Bogen, who represent the district that includes the area, said they feel the sheriff’s office is targeting their constituents. 

The reason the council members said they feel the sheriff’s office is targeting their constituents is because there was no way in or out of the neighborhood without going through a roadblock, which is Brantley’s predominately black neighborhood. 

Both councilmen said a similar issue arose in 2020, and in February 2020, Mayor Bernie Sullivan and the town council spoke to Sheriff Terry Mears about the situation. 

Minutes from the meeting show that the mayor requested the sheriff would extend the courtesy of informing Brantley Police Chief Titus Averett when he planned to do roadblocks/license checks within the town limits and allow the town to receive the benefits of any citations written during these license checks. 

After much discussion, the council and Mears agreed upon more cooperation between the Sheriff’s Office and the Brantley Police Department. 

According to Elliott and Bogen, neither Averett nor Sullivan were contacted before the roadblocks were set up. 

“We have our entire constituency breathing down our necks,” Elliott said. “They couldn’t get in or out of our neighborhood without going through the roadblock.”

Bogen said that if the town needs a road block he prefers that Averett and Assistant Police Chief Drew Morgan set up the roadblocks. 

“We aren’t going to stand for this treatment,” Bogen said. 

Another issue the councilmen have is that the sheriff’s office is not setting up roadblocks in Luverne, which is the county’s other municipality with a police force.

The Luverne Journal on Thursday confirmed with both Mears and Luverne Police Chief Mike Johnson the sheriff’s office had not set up any roadblocks in the Luverne City Limits. 

A similar situation occurred in 2008 and Bogen requested an Attorney General Opinion from then-AG Troy King. 

Bogen posed this question to King, “Does the county sheriff’s department have the right to come into the Town of Brantley and set up roadblocks and run radar every day without the permission of the municipal government or police department.”

King’s opinion outline the duties of the sheriff, and at the end concluded, “Alabama law gives sheriffs and their deputies law enforcement authority over the entirety of their respective counties. This authority is not limited or restricted inside the city limits of a municipality that is located within the sheriff’s respective county. A county sheriff is not required to obtain permission or prior approval of a municipal government or police departments before it may perform law enforcement operations within the limits of a municipality.”

Mears defended the decision to hold the roadblocks, but said he was off the day that the roadblocks occurred. 

However, he maintained that he continues to get calls from Brantley residents about illegal drug activity in the area. 

“Bottom line is the people in the town of Brantley are calling me because the Brantley Police Department isn’t doing anything,” he said. “I’m not going to let them boss me around. I swore an oath to protect the citizens of the entire county. If they want drugs to flourish in Brantley, they need to tell me and I will stop my deputies from coming down there, but I need something to tell people when they call me about the activity.” 

Mears also said that last week’s roadblocks also included mental health officials who were passing out brochures. 

Elliott and Bogen said they have not received complaints about drug activity in their district. 

Additionally, Bogen said he wanted people — especially blacks and white women — to be careful if they were stopped on a county road. He said that people need to call 911 to verify it is a real officer.

“Record everything,” he said. “You also have the right to not answer any questions except for what they stopped you for.”

The councilmen plan to bring the issue before the entire Brantley Town Council during Tuesday night’s council meeting.
The town council meets via Zoom due to COVID-19; however, meetings are still open to public as governed by the Alabama Open Meetings Act and residents who wish to attend the virtual meeting may contact town hall for login information. 

The Luverne Journal will be at the meeting and have more details after the night’s meeting.