North Courtland police officers take on first day of unemployment following layoffs

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NORTH COURTLAND, Ala. -- After North Courtland's mayor dissolved the town's police department, saying he had no choice due to insurance expenses, a handful of police officers are out of a job.

"I was shocked and disappointed," said Mitchell Breland of the moment he learned he'd have to turn in his badge. "I feel that it was the wrong decision to make. I disagreed with the decision, but I've got to follow my orders, at least for the moment."

Breland has worked in law enforcement for the past 10 years. He fell into the career after leaving the Army, and loves serving and protecting North Courtland.

"I joke that Courtland has a 'Mayberry' feel to it," he said with a smile. "It's laid-back, a small town feel, and everybody knows your name."

He woke up Wednesday morning without a job there, and says he's still waiting to be paid a month's wages.

"Rent is due on the first, and I'm not sure how I'm going to make that check yet," he acknowledged.

As a single father of three girls, Breland can't wait to find out what happens when the new mayor takes office in two weeks.

"I love the job, but I can't work for free," he told WHNT News 19. "I've got applications at a few different places, but I'm willing to come back to North Courtland if the opportunity presents itself. It's just a matter of finding the path to pay our bills and press forward."

Still, he's keeping his attitude positive: "Everything's always worked out in the past, and I trust that it will this time, too."

Lawrence Sheriff Gene Mitchell said it's not a big deal for him to add North Courtland to deputies' patrol areas. But it does, he admits, put extra strain on an already cash-strapped department with limited manpower.

"We're on tough times with the budgets, that's been eating at us now for quite a while," he said. "It would be much easier if we could just add another deputy or two, and put them over there and let them work," he explained, "but we don't have that luxury right now. In fact, we cut back a pretty good bit from where we were a few months ago."

He said North Courtland will still be safe under his deputies' watch. It's just that now, the sheriff's office will be handling all the calls, instead of assisting the town police.

"It adds to the responsibility we have," he said. "It's a big county. A lot of rural roads." Mitchell said they're also assisting the schools in North Courtland with resource officers.