Lawmaker to propose bill to disband ALEA

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LAUDERDALE COUNTY, Ala - A retired state trooper-turned-lawmaker mapped out a plan to do away with the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA).

Representative Phillip Pettus (R -Lauderdale County) hopes to put focus on individual agencies if his bill passes this legislative session.

"ALEA is too big," he began. "It was supposed to be an improvement, we have less troopers on the road now than we did when ALEA was formed. What my bill does is put ABC (Alcohol Beverage Control) back under the ABC board, and put marine police back under Game and Fish [Commission], put troopers  back under the Department of Public Safety (DPS), which will be just troopers."

He says a study recommended the state have 1,000 troopers, but ALEA only has just over 200 on the road of the state's 67 counties. Rep. Pettus has always been vocal and unimpressed by the umbrella agency, saying a big push at its inception was financial, and that it has since failed in that area.

"When they formed ALEA they said it would save $35 million a year, it hadn’t saved any," he said. "This year ALEA asked to double their budget from last year."

He said his goal isn't saving money, but getting troopers back on the roads. He says if they could break even but bring more of a presence on highways, he'd be happy.

ALEA inherited about a dozen agencies, pushing for fewer employees. But Pettus says that's not ideal; he explains to WHNT News 19 that if, for example, there was a trooper-involved shooting, that an ABC official could be the one to investigate. He says that's counter-intuitive.

"We need to get back to the basics of public safety," he said.

He adds that the consolidation of agencies pushed out higher ranking investigators and officials. Even the retirement is an issue.

"They did away with state police retirement when they did away with troopers, so ALEA has to make up the money and this year I think it's $8 million out of their budget to go to retirement," he said.

So, he says, the state could save money on retirement if ALEA was disbanded.

Pettus says he has overwhelming support from fellow legislators. In fact, he adds that Rep. Chris Sells has a bill in the works as a backup plan if Pettus' bill fails. Rep. Sells' bill would move marine police back under Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Representative Pettus says he plans to introduce the bill Thursday.