Police shortage in Tuscaloosa brings calls for earlier last-calls
By WVUA 23 News Reporter Peyton Newman
The Tuscaloosa Police Department’s short-staffing issues aren’t ending any time soon, so city leaders are looking at alternative solutions. One of the potentials? If bars close earlier, police will have more freedom in where they patrol.
On Thursday, TPD added eight officers to the force after their graduation from the Law Enforcement Academy, but 35 spots remain empty.
Currently, Tuscaloosa is weighing offering $10,000 retention bonuses for officers who remain at TPD.
Tuscaloosa Police Assistant Chief Stephen Rice said serving the community is the force’s top priority.
“Our calls for service are always gonna be our No. 1 priority, no matter how many we’re short,” Rice said. “So we’re always gonna have a plan to answer calls and to do our job. But we’re not gonna make excuses as far as, you know, being short or not having enough people. We’re going to fulfill our mission statement.”
Meanwhile, some city leaders believe a path forward is reducing how late bars can operate. District 6 Tuscaloosa City Council Member John Faile said the city should consider moving last call from 1:45 a.m. to midnight or earlier.
Because so many police are needed downtown and along the Strip near the University of Alabama campus during the evening hours as bars sling Yellowhammers and patrons clog sidewalks, there are fewer officers available for regular patrols. Faile said that’s unfair to Tuscaloosans, and something’s gotta give.
“The people in this district, where we’re at right now, we couldn’t get a police officer out here Friday or Saturday night for who knows how long because they’re all down on the Strip,” Faile said. “And the people in my district and the people in other parts of Tuscaloosa deserve police protection. And right now we’re not getting it on Friday and Saturday nights.”
Bar owners have been vocal in their opposition to Faile’s idea. There’s not yet been a vote or official discussion on the matter.