Alabama police chief quits over questions he turned town into an aggressive speed trap

Published 5:49 pm Wednesday, January 26, 2022

The police chief in a small Alabama town that received about half its municipal revenue from fines and forfeitures linked to aggressive traffic enforcement resigned following a report about the practice.

Mike Jones, chief of police in the Jefferson County town of Brookside, quit following a recent story by that said he turned the department into a traffic trap that by 2020 relied on income from ticketing people for minor and questionable offenses as they drive by on Interstate 22.

A statement from Debbie Keedy, who works as clerk of the town of roughly 1,250 people, said Jones resigned on Tuesday.

“Since this involves a personnel matter, the town has no further comment,” it said.

County officials were critical of the town’s practices, and Republican and Democratic officials discussed ways to rein in a system that sometimes is referred to as policing for profit.

Jones was hired in 2018. Brookside, once a mining community, under Jones built a police force of 10 or more full and part-time officers with 10 dark vehicles that patrol I-22.

The town has no traffic lights and only one store, but in 2020 collected $487 in fines and forfeitures for every man, woman and child. Income from fines and forfeitures rose 640% in two years, and by 2020 the total came to $610,000, or 49% of the town’s $1.2 million budget.

The Institute for Justice, a nonprofit, public interest law firm based in Virginia, contends that cities which rely on fines and fees for more than 10% of their revenue deserve scrutiny for what it calls “taxation by citation,” reported.

In Brookside, on days when municipal court is held, so many people show up for tickets that officers have to direct traffic.

The city faces at least five federal lawsuits for its policing, and officials including Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth sought investigations by the Justice Department and the state attorney general and audits.