Can we get a ruling here? E-mail
Written by Mark Nichols   

In the old days, it was easy to tell who was an actual cop and who wasn’t. These days it’s anyone’s guess. According to a recent article in the Chikasaw Journal, the Okolona Board of Mayor and Aldermen in Alabama will seek an Attorney General's opinion to determine if they have the power to say who can be a volunteer police officer.

The request for clarification from the A.G. came after board members learned that some volunteers were wearing Okolona Police Department uniforms, riding in city police vehicles and carrying weapons.

City Attorney Gene Barton pointed out the fact that Okolona Police Chief Tommy Ivy is an elected official, like a sheriff. As such he has the authority to run his department as he deems necessary and appropriate.

"We have received reports volunteer policemen are in uniform, in police cars and are wearing guns," said Okolona Mayor Louise Floyd-Cole. "Can they do that?"

Chief Lee told the board that he does not allow just anybody to be volunteer police officer. And the volunteers he does use don't “routinely patrol or answer calls,” and that they have to qualify at the local gun-range and be allowed to carry a weapon.

Chief Lee said that the Chickasaw Sheriff's Department has a number of volunteer deputies who routinely ride with officers and serve the county.

"We use these volunteers at football games, the Christmas parade and other community events," said Lee. "They can qualify to carry a weapon by going out to the range and passing a state firearms test."

Lee told the officials that volunteers can work as police officers for two years before they must obtain state police academy training.

What the board is worried about is the issue of liability.

Ward 1 Alderman Kenneth McVey mentioned that all city employees are supposed to be approved by aldermen.

"They are reserve officers and are not paid," Lee responded. "We have people knocking people in the head around here and I need help. This is not costing the city anything."

Lee says his uncertified and unpaid volunteers are covered by his department's insurance policy.

Ward 3 Alderman Eldridge Lowe said he did not want reserve officers in a city car, wearing a uniform and carrying weapons.

"If they look like a police officer for the City of Okolona, we are responsible," said Lowe. "This needs to be resolved."

So let’s just say there is an enormous gray area until officials here back from the Attorney General.


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