HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle and Police Chief Lewis Morris held a joint news conference Friday morning to announce Morris' retirement.
Morris will retire September 1. He has been the city's police chief since 2012, succeeding Mark Hudson.
"I've had a wonderful career with the Huntsville Police Department. I started out as a ranger, and I leave as a chief. I've worked for seven chiefs and four mayors," said Chief Morris. "I can tell the citizens of Huntsville that you have the finest police department in this country, and you have it because of the people who work here."
Mayor Tommy Battle thanked Chief Morris for his 37 years of service to the police department. He said Morris came to him a year ago to talk about an exit strategy.
"We pushed him off as long as we could and finally three months ago, we set this date. He has been a great chief for the past four years. Chief Morris is a man of integrity and dedication, the kind of man you want leading your police force,” said Mayor Tommy Battle. “His instincts were honed from years of criminal justice experience off and on the street, which in turn empowered him to make smart decisions that kept us safe, secure, and well connected to our community.”
Many city leaders and police officials also offered their support.
"Chief, it's a sad day, we're going to miss you, but we celebrate your service to us," said Huntsville City Council President Mark Russell. "The council has enjoyed working with [Chief Morris] - he has always been straight up with us, and his calm demeanor has been a pleasure to work with. We very much appreciate his straight talk and honesty."
Others thanked Chief Morris for his years of service, including City Administrator John Hamilton.
"The mayor mentioned that Morris has been asking to retire for about a year or so, and it's mostly fallen to me to convince him not to do it," said Hamilton. "Fortunately I was successful on a number of those attempts and we've had absolutely outstanding service, and the citizens of Huntsville have been served well by Lewis Morris."
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"We will work together, we will make ourselves even better, and we will continue to strive to be the best there is," said Mayor Tommy Battle.
Captain Mark McMurray, who currently leads the West precinct, has been named the new chief, pending city council approval. McMurray has 34 years in public safety and law enforcement, which includes certification as a firefighter. He joined the Huntsville Police Department 29 years ago as a field training officer and canine handler. McMurray later served as investigator in the gang suppression unit, as Sergeant and unit supervisor of the K-9 Unit, Lieutenant of the Special Operations Division, and Police Captain of the West Precinct. He has supervised hundreds of officers, led task forces and investigations, managed facilities and worked with civic groups.
“I am honored and excited to serve as the next Chief of Police for this great city,” said McMurray. “This is one of the nation’s premiere police departments; one where I learned early on you that can be both cop and a gentleman. I am grateful to Chief Morris for his leadership, and to Mayor Battle and the citizens of Huntsville for this opportunity.”