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Turner proposes county-wide law enforcement agency for Perry; plan would do away with Marion, U’town PDs

Citing recent issues at both Marion and Uniontown Police Departments, Perry County Commission Chairman Albert Turner has proposed a new direction for law enforcement in Perry County. Turner took to social media over the past week to propose a county-wide “metro” sheriff’s department with jurisdiction in both Marion and Uniontown.

The proposal would include the end of Marion and Uniontown’s city police departments, and the incorporation of law enforcement efforts in those two cities under the authority of the Perry County Sheriff.

Turner said the plan would save both cities money, as well as improving service to both areas.

The commission chairman did not hold back in his criticism of both cities’ law enforcement agencies, noting that Uniontown has been without a permanent police chief since last year. He called Marion Police Chief Tony Bufford “an oncall police chief who is paid full-time but is only present part-time or as needed.”

“Bank officials in Uniontown noted the lack of a police presence as one reason the local bank closes at 1:00 p.m. daily. Family members of murdered victims believe the absence of a police presence is why their loved ones’ cases have gone cold and unsolved,” Turner went on to say.

Some larger counties in Alabama already operate different versions of hybrid, metropolitan, or countywide law enforcement agencies. A similar plan was discussed several years ago for Marengo County, but ultimately was not adopted there.

Turner said that, under the proposed plan, the Perry County Commission would be in charge of funding the department. Hiring and firing would be under the authority of the Perry County Sheriff, independent of the commission. Municipal court systems would remain untouched in the proposal, and would continue to ajudicate cases originating inside the respective city limits of Marion and Uniontown.

Turner noted that this plan would remove the need for cities to pay to reserve space at the Perry County Jail. He has been at a number of recent Marion City Council meetings regarding that arrangement, saying that the city will need to increase the amount it pays for bed space at the county jail.

While cities throughout rural Alabama are strapped for cash, sheriff’s departments are now dealing with their own budget shortfalls due to the repeal of the pistol permit requirement in Alabama.

Sheriff’s departments realized a significant amount of revenue from the issuing of pistol permits, a practice now rendered obselete under the law.

Turner has proposed the plan as a solution to both problems. He said in his announcement that Perry County Sheriff Billy Jones was on board with the plan.

As of now, however, the proposal is only an idea. Turner said a series of meetings would need to take place between all parties involved to discuss and hammer out the details of any potential arrangement. Both cities would have to agree to give up their police departments, which, though the budget savings may be tempting, comes with the trade-off of relinquishing municipal autonomy over law enforcement within city limits.