Chipley Council institutes new policy for law enforcement regarding nonviolent civil rights demonstrators

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A new policy approved by the Chipley City Council on April 9 bars local law enforcement from using “excessive force” against any individuals engaged in nonviolent civil rights demonstrations within its jurisdiction. 

The policy was placed on the agenda for an April 9 meeting as a requirement for the City of Chipley to receive a grant, at the insistence of the person managing the grant.

“The City of Chipley has received a Community Development Block Grant and is required to comply with the Title I of the Housing and Community Development Act,” the resolution said.

Chipley Police Department (CPD) Lieutenant Michael Richter, who spoke on behalf of police matters during the City Council meeting while Chief Scott Thompson is on leave, is reportedly “perfectly good” with the policy, City Administrator Patrice Tanner said.

In other police news, the staffing level for the CPD was discussed when Councilmember Cheryl McCall brought up speeding on City streets, including traffic “going to the beach, peeling off (Highway) 77.”

“It seems to be some of the same people heading for work and we don’t have the manpower, on the police standpoint, to do anything about it,” McCall said. “The problem is the beach traffic used to be Memorial Day to Labor Day. It used to be the Thomas Drive area, so they headed down 77. What’s changed is the west end of the beach so now they’re trying to get to (Highway) 90, which is where officers sit every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday catching traffic.”

Richter said police can sit on the street for two hours and see several vehicles pass by but residents may see more than that. 

“In the morning, you have one officer on duty who’s on school patrol so that eliminates anybody from seeing all the traffic going into Bonifay going to work,” McCall said.

Being able to handle the matter is a staffing issue on the CPD’s end, Richter said.

“My guys work all the time,” Richter said. “For the past year, I’ve worked an extra duty detail twice a week to give them some relief. The details were at a time that it just wasn’t conducive for them to work it and be able to have an off day still.” 

The CPD is “doing more and more all the time” and needs more officers, he said. 

“We have eight employed and seven currently on the road,” Richter said when asked about current staffing levels. “Comfortably staffed would be an additional four on patrol and another investigator.” 

Other points of discussion mentioned the City’s speed bump policy and speed counters measuring how many vehicles pass through. 

“In the long term, it sounds like we need to look at the staffing issues and not just keep buying equipment,” Councilmember Kevin Russell said. “What’s your equipment going to do for you if you have nobody to be able to enforce anything off it?”

Russell said he wanted to know what the ideal staffing level is to “make sure the town is taken care of like it needs to be.”

“I don’t want us to turn into a lily pad department where we’re overworking and underpaying them and they jump to another position,” Russell said. 

Tanner said the City is looking at applying to hire two officers through a grant.

Other tidbits from the meeting:

-W. Brett Baker was officially sworn into the Ward 4 seat for the City Council. Baker has served on the City Council before and is filling a vacancy after former Ward 4 Councilmember Kristin Martin resigned to focus more time on her professional and personal life. 

-The Watermelon Festival Parade will be held Saturday, June 22, starting at 10 a.m. The parade has a new route, which was attached to the meeting agenda and can be viewed at 

-Community member Malcolm Nelson was recognized and given an appreciation plaque for his long-time service as a Chipley Redevelopment Agency board member.