HARTSELLE, AL (WAFF) - Hartselle has a new police chief and he’s a familiar face within the department!
Justin Barley has a long history of law enforcement service in his family. His great grandfather was a two term sheriff in Limestone County from 1947-1955 and then we was police chief in Athens. His wife's grandfather was a three-term sheriff in Lawrence County.
"He's the one who gave me my first job," Barley said.
Now, he continuing that legacy as he takes the reins of the Hartselle Police Department.
"I'm settling into the role since the first of this month. I'm extremely excited and I'm very proud of this accomplishment. There's just a lot of good things going on," he stated.
He's been with Hartselle PD for 20 years. Before that, he was a sheriff's deputy in Lawrence County.
He started in patrol, and then moved to narcotics investigator in 2001. He spent three years in that assignment with two of those at the multi-jurisdictional drug task force in Morgan County.
After that, he was promoted to sergeant and worked in the Criminal Investigations Division. In 2005, he was promoted to chief investigator.
He did that job until May of 2017 and then he went back out on patrol. As a lieutenant, he ran a patrol shift.
Last month, the city council selected him to be the next police chief. He replaces Ron Puckett who will be sworn in next week as Morgan County sheriff.
One of the chief’s priorities is hiring officers to address manpower shortages.
“We’re short several officers and we’re working to get those hired so that we can get all of our shifts fully staffed and provide a high level of service that we want to give and that our citizens deserve,” Barley explained.
The agency now has a lateral transfer program that was rolled out this week.
"It's going to make a real difference in our ability to attract officers who are already certified and experienced. It's going to help us address manpower needs in a much quicker fashion," the chief said.
"Historically, we've been capped at what we could offer someone as a starting salary. Now we can give someone service credit from an existing agency. That makes a big impact on being able to attract someone because they can do it now without potentially taking a big pay cut," he added.
Barley is also addressing training to make sure that there's consistency and oversight.
“Here in Hartselle, we have a small town feel and we value community policing. But if something bad were to happen, whether it be a significant weather event or serious crime, we want our officers to be well prepared to respond to that,” he stated. “Things like an active shooter response, legal issues and updates, shooting, defensive tactics- things that are high liability and high risk for my officers, i want to make sure that we’re as well trained in those areas as possible.”
He also wants to ensure that the department is structured in the most efficient way possible. The agency changed its shift structure in the last year and a half.
“As we move forward, I want to make sure that our positions are maximized,” Barley said. “Change is unsettling, but we’re not coming from a bad situation. We had a very good chief so there’s not monumental changes that need to be made. This change brings forth a lot of new opportunity.”
He feels there’s excitement and enthusiasm in the department.
"We have great officers. We've been challenged just like everybody else has over the years with lean budgets but these men and women here have always been dedicated to this community and they've always found a way to get the job done regardless of the challenges. I'm very proud of that. Those core people are still here and we're still going to be a very good police department even through transition," Barley added.
Anyone interested in Hartselle PD’s lateral transfer program should check out their Facebook page. They have laid out all of the information, including the pay scales and the process. There is a link where you can apply.