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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — Huntsville Police Chief Mark McMurray is retiring from the department at the end of February, multiple sources told News 19 Friday morning.

The City of Huntsville did not comment on News 19 inquiries Friday morning but sent out a news release confirming McMurray’s plans shortly before noon.

McMurray has been with the Huntsville Police Department for more than 35 years and was named chief in August 2015.

In its news release the City of Huntsville credited McMurray with modernizing the department and it said he prioritized community policing during his six-year tenure as Chief of Police. 

“I want to thank Mayor Tommy Battle for the opportunity to lead the men and women of HPD,” McMurray said. “I will leave the force knowing it has a strong leadership team that will help take HPD to the next level in public safety. My family and I look forward to watching the department continue to grow.” 

Deputy Chief Kirk Giles will serve as Interim Chief, the City of Huntsville said.

Under McMurray, the HPD has also maintained its national Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA), a distinction held by just 5% of law enforcement agencies in the U.S. HPD has held that distinction since 1996.

During McMurray’s tenure, HPD officer Billy Clardy III was killed in the line of duty. Investigators say a Tennessee man shot him in a failed drug sting. McMurray led the department through a difficult period of mourning and expressed gratitude for the widespread support to the department from the public.

McMurray had experience as an officer, K-9 handler, investigator, sergeant, lieutenant and captain and helped shape the department, the Huntsville news release said. HPD has more than 800 sworn and civilian personnel today, the city said.  

The Huntsville news release said that, “Under McMurray’s leadership, the department reorganized its Criminal Investigation Division to a centralized location and activated the North Alabama Multi-Agency Crime Center (NAMACC) to use advanced technology to help investigators solve complex cases. “

Mayor Tommy Battle thanked McMurray for his service.

“Chief McMurray has embraced 21st century policing, and our City and police department are better for it,” he said. “Under Chief’s command, our officers have the resources they need to keep residents safe while continuing to hone their skills as law enforcement professionals,” Battle said in the news release. “We hope Chief McMurray enjoys a happy and well-deserved retirement with his family.”  

McMurray, 60, and his wife, Lisa, have one daughter, son-in-law, and a grandson. A Tampa, Florida, native, McMurray moved to Huntsville when he was 2 years old after his father landed a job at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.  

McMurray’s tenure also included controversy, notably his public support for then-HPD Officer William Darby. Darby was convicted of murder in May 2021.

Darby remained on the HPD payroll while awaiting trial on the April 2018 on-duty shooting. He continued to be paid by the City of Huntsville for more than a month after his conviction.

McMurray also led HPD during a series of public protests in the summer of 2020, which included two confrontations with protesters where HPD used tear gas and other tactics to disperse a non-violent protest. The department’s tactics were criticized in a report commissioned by the City of Huntsville and the Huntsville Police Citizens Advisory Council.

“We’re a big city and we have a large police department and they do have issues that come up and unfortunately that is a reality that we have to deal with,” said Huntsville City Councilman Bill Kling.  

The chief vigorously defended the department’s actions during the protests, blaming outside forces for the unrest. But his extended defense of police intelligence was also found flawed by the law firm that reviewed HPD’s protest tactics.

In the aftermath of the protests the Huntsville City Council — in its regular meetings — and the police advisory council, through a series of public meetings, gave community members a chance to weigh in on their views of the police department.  

McMurray also recently had to address the fact that an HPD officer, David McCoy, was charged with murdering his pregnant girlfriend. Testimony at McCoy’s preliminary showed the officer originally tried to hide what happened.

McMurray said he fired McCoy a few days after the incident and praised his officers’ response at the shooting scene.

McMurray said HPD officers who responded to the scene determined something “wasn’t right” almost immediately and they took action to direct their investigation at a fellow officer. McMurray stressed, “There was no cover-up.”

McMurray also admitted that the incident was painful, saying he was, “devastated.”

“I mean justice doesn’t slow us down. It demands we take action. Immediately, and we did,” McMurray said.

McMurray also expressed his deep condolences to the family of the shooting victim, Courtney Spraggins.