A little over a year after his swearing in, Level Plains Police Chief Keith Gray discussed the state of the department.
The five officers, one chief department covers a “very active” police jurisdiction, which extend past the city limits.
“Our jurisdiction is from the Fort Rucker gate to (Dale) County Road 1 and it comes all the way down to (Dale) County Road 1 and goes to the right towards Averett (Street) and goes on 445,” Gray said. “Then it comes back—the jurisdiction is kind of in and out—all the way to County Road 24, which also comes out of Daleville on the south side. And it comes all the way back to (Highway) 84 on various streets.”
Gray had only good things to say about his officers.
“The officers are real good officers,” Gray said. “They came generally from other departments as sworn officers and I’ve worked with them coming from smaller agencies sending them to continuing education schools and promoting them whenever I’m able to get them trained.”
He generally spoke of some of the changes he’s made since taking over officially in January of last year.
“What I’ve been doing is bringing the department up to—what I would just say is—current, modern-day policing at a lot of different levels,” Gray said.
Gray said that these changes would not have been possible without the support of the City of Level Plains and its council.
“I can say the council has supported us 100 percent,” Gray said.
One of the changes the department has made was its communication system.
“We have enhanced our communications immensely,” Gray said. “We’ve enhanced our our ability to communicate where we can communicate with multiple agencies from one radio platform and we have a backup redundancy system. That has helped us a little bit with officer safety.”
Gray noted that the council also approved and paid for newer model cars, which he said will end up saving money due to savings on maintenance costs.
Another change he highlighted was the addition of bilingual officers to the force.
“I’ve added two officers that are bilingual,” Gray said. “I felt the need for that because we can reach out to our Hispanic community with better understanding. The ability to solve more crimes by having bilingual officers is definitely coming into play. Also, having a diverse workforce so we mirror the community so we do appear we are approachable.”
While these changes are great, Gray said the biggest change he would like to make is to grow the department to meet with the increased demand the department is seeing.
“Recently I spoke with the Dale County dispatchers, which we use as our E-911 dispatchers, and they informed me a few weeks ago that Level Plains is receiving three times the call volume it did with the same number of officers,” Gray said.
He said that the help and support of the community helps offset some of the demand on the officers and thanked the community for its support. However, he asked citizens to please be careful and call the department when they see something suspicious.
“We’re going to continue to reach out to citizens to help us in things that they may see and be suspicious of,” Gray said. “I would urge citizens that when they see something they appear to be suspicious of, contact us first. What we’ve been getting often times is the citizen will observe and wait and often times go out and investigate and confront strangers on their property. That can be dangerous.”
Gray said that more changes are on the horizon for the department and thanked several law enforcement agencies for their help during his first year as chief and for the future.
“We’re still making changes,” Gray said. “I have a lot of ideas to enhance what we have and make us a more professional department. We are working with neighboring law enforcement agencies and we’re getting enormous support from our law enforcement friends at the state level, (Dale County) Sheriff (Wally) Olson, Daleville Police and Fire, Enterprise and I could go on. It’s almost like we work together daily and it feels good to have that comradery and professional assistance whenever we get together.”