Alabama Law Enforcement Secretary Spencer Collier, 41, stands in front of a Police Officer's Memorial statue at the state capitol, Tueday, Dec. 16, 2014, in Montgomery, Ala. Collier oversaw a merger of 12 agencies to make the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, â€œIt is the largest realignment of law enforcement resources in the history of the state,â€ Collier said. Alabamaâ€™s massive consolidation of law enforcement agencies has been completed ahead of the Jan. 1 deadline, and the most visible sign of the merger is more patrols on the busy highways during holidays. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
MONTGOMERY, Alabama — Alabama's massive consolidation of law enforcement agencies has been completed ahead of the Jan. 1 deadline, and the most visible sign of the merger is more patrols on the busy highways during holidays.
Gov. Robert Bentley said the consolidation is good for the taxpayers. "But you may not like that if you are speeding," he said.
With Bentley's support, the Legislature voted in 2013 to combine 12 state law enforcement agencies and set Jan. 1, 2015, as the deadline for completing the work. Bentley picked his Homeland Security director, Spencer Collier, to head the new Alabama Law Enforcement Agency.
"It is the largest realignment of law enforcement resources in the history of the state," Collier said.
Collier, 41, was a former state trooper and state representative from Mobile who served with Bentley in the House. He said having experience in law enforcement and politics was valuable in overseeing the merger of organizations that didn't always work together.
"When we started this we had state agencies working on the same case unbeknownst to each other," he said.
The 12 agencies combined to make the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency were: Department of Homeland Security, Department of Public Safety, Alabama Bureau of Investigation, Fusion Center, Criminal Justice Information Center, Marine Police, Alcoholic Beverage Control Board Enforcement, Department of Revenue Enforcement, Forestry Commission Investigations, Agricultural and Industry Investigations, Public Service Commission Enforcement, and Office of Prosecution Service Computer Forensics Lab.
Together, they have 1,400 employees, including 850 officers with arrest powers.
Collier said the consolidation was largely completed when the state's new fiscal year began Oct. 1, but emblems on patrol cars and other visible signs of law enforcement are still being brought into uniformity as the deadline approaches.
Collier said the biggest advantage of the merger is being able to shift resources where needed. When the merger started, there were 289 Highway Patrol officers on Alabama's highways. Collier said 60 officers have been shifted from other functions to the highways, and 60 Marine Police officers are helping patrol the roads in colder months when Alabama waterways aren't busy. In warmer months, officers traditionally involved in liquor law enforcement are helping Marine Police with cracking down on drunken boaters and underage drinking on the waterways and around marinas, Collier said.
Other changes are on the way. Collier said motorists should soon be able to renew their driver's licenses online. Those needing to take a driver's exam will be able to make an appointment online rather than spend hours waiting at a driver's exam office. Also, self-service kiosks, now used in the agency's offices in Mobile and Birmingham, will be added in other urban areas.
When the Legislature passed the merger legislation, supporters talked about savings of up to $35 million a year.
The merger legislation provided that no one would be laid off. Instead, supporters expected savings when management employees retired and weren't replaced and when support services, such as radio systems and fleet management offices, were combined.
Collier said the savings projections weren't based on the final legislation that passed. He said he would like to invest savings back into the agency to increase the number of officers patrolling Alabama's highways. "It is dismal what our numbers are," he said.
Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, who sponsored the consolidation legislation, said he's pleased with how the merger has gone, but he questions pouring all the savings back into the agency.
"I hope we eventually see dollars saved, not just spending those dollars elsewhere," Marsh, R-Anniston, said.