A Dog Named Cash

It has no traffic light, and the only commercial enterprise in town is a Dollar Store, which is still a bit pricey for the residents of Brookside, Alabama.

Brookside until recently was known for its quirky Russian food festival and the state’s only onion-domed Russian Orthodox Church. It’s a former mining town, its population about the same as it was a decade ago. Fewer than 100 of its residents graduated college.

Brookside is a poor town, 70% white, 21% Black, with a small but growing Hispanic population and a median income well below the state average. The town survives on the fringes of Birmingham with tax revenue from the Dollar General, which forms the totality of its commercial district.

Fortunately, it has jurisdiction over about 1.5 miles of highway, not that it lets such petty concerns as jurisdiction get in its way, a “tank” and a never-ending stream of revenue from fines and forfeitures from pretty much anyone who comes anywhere near Brookside. And a drug dog named K-9 Cash.

Police stops soared between 2018 and 2020. Fines and forfeitures – seizures of cars during traffic stops, among other things – doubled from 2018 to 2019. In 2020 they came to $610,000. That’s 49% of the small town’s skyrocketing revenue.

“This is shocking,” said Crowder. “No one can objectively look at this and conclude this is good government that is keeping us safer.”

There are serial statistics, a host of anecdotes and five pending lawsuits, as of the moment, all of which show that this such absurdly abusive. Enjoying the benefit of the wealth of offenses “proved” by nothing more than a cop’s observation, the sound of cha-ching rings down Main Street when it isn’t drowned out by the roar of the MRAP.

Brookside, which in 2018 had one full time police officer, now parks a riot control vehicle — townspeople call it a tank — outside the municipal complex and community center. (Joe Songer for AL.com).Joe Songer

Still not convinced something is awry here?

“I see a 600% increase – that’s a failure. If you had more officers and more productivity you’d have more,” [Police Chief Mike] Jones said. “I think it could be more.”

The police chief sees a problem, that there are still people driving close to his turf with coins left in their pocket, which is opportunity lost. So he’s beefing up the department, which had only one full-timer, him, when he got there.

A department of nine officers in a 1,253-person town is far larger than average. Across the country, the average size of a force is one officer for every 588 residents, according to a Governing Magazine study that examined federal statistics.

Last year, based on Jones’ testimony, Brookside had at least one officer for every 144 residents.

Then this month the Brookside department posted on Facebook that it had hired six more officers “in an effort to expand our dedication and commitment to provide superior community service & protection.”

As for the grievances, the mayor is unmoved.

Mayor Bryan dismissed the complaints of those who must appear in court. “Everybody’s got a story,” he said. “And 99% of them are lying.”

Well, that’s a take. And the best part is that what’s happening in Brookside, Alabama isn’t exactly a well-kept secret.

“It’s my understanding that a guy can go out there and I mean, he can fall into a black hole,” Jefferson County District Attorney Danny Carr said of drivers getting entangled financially. “You know, we’ve had a lot of issues with Brookside.”

Jefferson County Sheriff Mark Pettway said the same.

“We get calls about Brookside quite regularly because they really go outside their jurisdiction to stop people,” Pettway said. “Most of the time people get stopped, they’re going to get a ticket. And they’re saying they were nowhere near Brookside.”

All of which raises a question: If everybody knows that Brookside has turned travelers and certain residents into its governmental ATM, why isn’t anything being done, whether at the county, state or federal level, to stop it?

Pettway also said issues with Brookside could draw the attention of the federal government.

“I think it’s one of those situations … that could possibly bring in the feds with some oversight,” he said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they opened up an investigation. You can’t do what’s going on over there.”

For individuals falsely charged, denied anything remotely resembling a fair hearing and railroaded into shocking fines, fees and forfeitures, fighting costs time and money, which adds insult to injury. If ever there was a scenario the earned the word “systemic,” Brookside is it. And yet it continues, despite the suits brought by a few brave and willing folks, to try to accomplish what other jurisdictions with the ability to end this travesty haven’t.

Law isn’t self-effectuating. It could well be argued that pretty much everything happening with the Brookside police is one huge grift in flagrant violation of law and with the most cynical wink at integrity possible. And yet, there is no indication of any action being taken by the governmental entities whose duty it is to prevent such a laughable violation of law and Constitution to shut down this sham. While Sheriff Pettway knows all about it, he’s not losing sleep over it since individuals can always pay for the best justice Brookside can offer.

“It may cost some money to go through that process,” he said. “But if you want real justice, I think you’ll go through the process. Fairness and real justice, I believe, is something people are looking for when it comes to law enforcement.

There is nothing about what’s happening in Brookside that finds legitimate justification in law, the mayor’s 99 problems notwithstanding. But hey, Cash is cute, and who doesn’t love a puppy?

H/T Tim Cushing

12 thoughts on “A Dog Named Cash

  1. Richard Kopf


    I understand from CLS that there is another town in Alabama where law, well sorta, is law.


  2. Colin Samuels

    I doubt that it’s entirely solved the problem of police overreach, but here in the Great State of Maine, a simple law requiring (essentially) the pooling of vehicle citations at the state level, rather than at the local level, seems to mitigate the problem. Take away the incentive for a tiny community along the highway to make a cash grab from every passing motorist and they quickly tire of over-policing for no direct benefit to themselves. It’d be Alpo rather than filet mignon for K-9 Cash in Maine, in other words.

    1. Mr. Ed

      I recall a few traps in Georgia. The state finally took away their authority to give speeding tickets. It did not stop them none at first. You fart passing through and you got a fine.

      At some point, the counties finally put a stop to it, but only after much public shaming in the press. Some of those little towns had no property tax. Everything was funded by the organized crime they called a police department.

  3. B. McLeod

    I assume the Mayor’s first name is “Boss ” and that he is an old, fat, white guy who wears a white planter’s suit with a string tie.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    These guys make New Rome Ohio look like amateur hour. They also need the same solution, a “speed trap law” like Ohio, disband the police and disincorporate the town.

    1. KeyserSoze

      I remember when the State of Ohio did that. If I recall correctly, no one knows where the money went.

  5. Skink

    All this made me go thinking, so I spent all of ten minutes. Ten minutes don’t make me no Alabama lawyer, except if compared to one that should wear the famous IMA SJ Dope hat. I invite a real Alabama lawyer to fix my thinking.

    I looked at a map. No part of this tiny burg includes I-22. My lawyer brain, which is sometimes small, asked why the cops had jurisdiction on the interstate if the interstate wasn’t within the boundaries. If there’s city cops for the city and county cops for stuff not in cities, why would city cops have jurisdiction outside the city limits? It seems Alabama has a law allowing city cops to enforce laws outside of cities, where most would figure county cops would do the work. There must be some concern city cops have been abusing this around the state, as the lege recently reduced the area for this fornication to occur. For tiny towns, cops can only enforce laws within two miles of the city border. I don’t know why that would be allowed, but some fancy Alabama type of me might know.

    Since the law was changed, I’m guessing Brookside ain’t operating in a vacuum. As you mention, the city, the county and the local court don’t seem interested in fixing this stuff, but the state seems to be getting interested. Maybe a fix in on the way.

    But the sheriff is flat wrong–the fix ain’t the feds. Them dopes would cede ownership of that section of highway and let the city turn it into a toll road. The feds would then act surprised when the toll road was renamed the George Wallace Memorial Highway.

  6. Mr. Ed

    I spent a few days in Brookside last year canoeing the creek that it sits on. The only place to shop is the lone Dollar General store.

    That little town definitely has a ‘Stepford Wives’ feel to it.

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