SELMA, AL (WSFA) - Former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) Secretary Spencer Collier has been appointed by Selma Mayor Darrio Melton to serve as the city's next police chief. Collier and his family were in Selma Monday where he signed paperwork, took the oath of office, and addressed the media at a news conference.
"We're excited to welcome Chief Collier to Selma," Mayor Melton said. "I'm confident his wide range of expertise in law enforcement will benefit our city and help move us forward."
According to the mayor, Collier beat out other applicants and referrals for the job because of his extensive law enforcement experience.
Collier served as the state's first secretary of law enforcement from 2013 to 2016 where he oversaw 1,400 employees and a budget of $150 million. During his time at ALEA, he oversaw the largest realignment of the law enforcement in state history, which combined 12 state agencies establishing ALEA. His new job includes oversight of 41 officers and a budget of $4.5 million.
During his work with ALEA, Collier served as incident commander for several large public events, including the 50th Anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery March. He coordinated ALEA resources with local law enforcement, the Dallas County Sheriff's Department, and the United States Secret Service to coordinate the event that only resulted in 11 arrests over the weekend.
Prior to the establishment of ALEA, Collier was the Director of Homeland Security for Alabama. He coordinated efforts for large scale disasters including the April, 2011, tornadoes and was recognized nationally for his work during Hurricane Katrina in rescuing more than 30 people from rapidly rising flood waters.
Collier also served as an Assistant Post Commander for the Alabama State Troopers. He went to the trooper academy at the Selma post and taught there.
Collier is a graduate of the US Naval Postgraduate School for Homeland Defense and Security, the University of North Florida Institute of Police Technology, the Alabama Criminal Justice Training Center, the Southwest Alabama Police Academy, and Troy University.
Collier and Melton also served for a brief time together in the Alabama House of Representatives.
"We wanted to make sure that we had someone with experience in administration, experience with working with agencies on the local, state and federal level and that's what we believe it's going to take to be able to address the crime issues, violence and gang activity we have in this city," Melton said.
Collier acknowledged that he looked at other job opportunities with higher salaries, but said Selma is where he wants to be.
"I knew immediately that I wanted this job for two reasons. Number one, the challenge and the opportunity to improve public safety in probably one of the most historic cities in the country. Number two, I wanted to work for Mayor Melton. I've known him and watched him as a legislator. His integrity is impeccable," Collier said. "He ran on a platform of improving public safety and that demonstrates his leadership."
Last March, Governor Robert Bentley terminated Collier as ALEA secretary, with allegations of misconduct and misuse of funds. A grand jury later found no wrongdoing on Collier's part and found no basis for the investigation. Collier says the governor fired him as part of a personal vendetta, which Bentley denies.Collier has been involved in a wrongful termination lawsuit against the governor. Bentley, and current Law Enforcement Secretary Stan Stabler, have asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuit filed by Collier. The lawsuit is still pending in court.
Collier said he's happy to work with strong executive leadership in Selma, which he says he hasn't had in years. He added that he's putting the drama from the past year behind him.
"If I can be a part of improving public safety, Selma's potential is unlimited. That's the first step towards revitalizing this city," he said. "We are going to re-establish a chain of command here. It has to be singular. Our military operates that way and law enforcement everywhere else operates that way."
Chief Collier met with officers at Selma PD headquarters after his swearing in ceremony. He says he will be making visible changes in the department very quickly. First on his list of things to do is turning more of the department's unmarked police cars into marked squad cars to create more visibility on the city's streets.
He is also making more shifts for investigators.
"We have way too many unmarked cars. Just something as simple as marking those patrol cars and people knowing law enforcement is present that alone can deter crime, especially violent crime," he said. "Right now, we have investigators only working day shift five days a week. With the crime rate that's here, that's not going to work. You have to have an investigator on duty at night."
He also plans to meet with community groups and organizations, calling himself "a huge proponent" of community-oriented policing.
Collier will begin serving as the police chief effective Feb. 1. He will be moving to the city after his children finish the school year.
"It's a burden lifted off the police department in regards to having strong leadership that will help steer this ship in the right direction," Mayor Melton said.
Collier replaces former chief John Brock, who retired in December after more than 30 years with the Selma Police Department. Brock says the mayor asked him to step down.
Collier will receive a salary of $77,000 per year plus benefits, which falls in line with the city's set pay band for police chief.