Following recent reports about the renegade actions of the Brookside Police Department, Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth announced on Wednesday that his office is leading legislation designed to prevent similar abuses from occurring in cities and towns across Alabama.
Representative Louise Alexander, D-Bessemer, is sponsoring HB389 in the Alabama House, and Senator Garlan Gudger, R-Cullman, is sponsoring SB282 in the Alabama Senate on Ainsworth’s behalf.
“The lucrative fines generated from tickets that were wrongly issued and charges that were wrongly filed against passing motorists fueled the renegade actions and ‘anything goes’ atmosphere within the Brookside Police Department,” Ainsworth said. “By restricting the revenues that municipalities may generate from traffic fines and penalties to a reasonable level, we can simultaneously limit the temptation for abuses like those in Brookside to occur elsewhere.”
The four-paragraph legislation mandates that only 10 percent of a municipality’s budget may come from traffic fines and penalties, and any excess revenues must be donated to the Crime Victims’ Compensation Fund and the Fair Trial Tax Fund, which provide indigent defense services in Alabama.
Recent media reports revealed that the town of Brookside, which has a recorded population of just 1,253 people, generated 49 percent of its revenues in 2020 from traffic fines and forfeitures. Ainsworth has noted that his hometown of Guntersville generates only one percent of its city revenues from traffic fines.
The bombshell revelations prompted resignations of the town’s police chief, his second-in-command, and five other officers. Subsequent town hall meetings attended by those who were fined and charged by the department resulted in credible accounts of “bullying, intimidation, detention, retribution, threats, racial profiling, and charges made up of whole cloth to stack fines on drivers,” according to the Alabama Media Group.
In addition to developing and filing the legislation, Ainsworth previously prompted the Alabama Department of Examiners of Public Accounts to begin conducting a thorough forensic audit of the Brookside Police Department, its finances, and its practices and procedures.