Edmondson: 'We should have access to every bit of that'

Rainsville Police Chief Michael Edmondson addresses the city council Monday.

The Rainsville City Council discussed safety and improvements to the city’s network and recording software.

Councilman Arlan “Monk” Blevins said following the Aug. 6 2021 murder investigation the Rainsville Police Department conducted with the District Attorneys' office, a few issues came to light, including the city’s recording software and access to that program.

He said phone records were not able to be obtained because only Mayor Roger Lingerfelt and City Clerk Kelly Frazier were able to access the account.

“I think for the sake of safety, the police chief would need access to those records in case you guys are not here,”

Lingerfelt clarified he and Frazier only had access to the billing and not the recordings. Additionally, he explained their provider is not able to record dispatch radio calls.

Rainsville Police Chief Michael Edmondson said, right now, their dispatch calls are not recorded and it’s something that needed to be fixed.

“If a phone call comes into the police department, folks ought to know that phone call is being recorded,” he said. “We should have access to every bit of that.”

Rainsville Assistant Police Chief Matt Crum said when canvassing upgrades to their phone system, one of the issues was finding a system capable of recording both dispatch and incoming landline calls.

He said their technology specialist spoke of obtaining Network-attached storage, a file-level storage architecture that makes store data more accessible to networked devices.

“During that time, the ball was dropped, and we never got any more information about the NAS. However, the police department was under the understanding that we were getting our phone calls recorded this whole time,” Crum said.

He said it wasn’t until the investigators contacted Farmers Telecommunications Cooperative (FTC), that they realized there were a lot of issues, including access to phone records.

“We did learn, thankfully those internet phones that we have, hold about one to two weeks' worth of recordings,” said Crum. “So, we were able to get that phone call to the DA’s office.”

He said after following up with their IT specialist, it was confirmed the department would have to invest in a NAS server with the capability to hook up and record every call for an extended period.

“In talking with Robin, who is our IT person, she said FTC has no capabilities to record dispatch radio calls. Phone, yes, but not dispatch,” Crum said.

The council and police chiefs discussed searching for and purchasing a system with the capabilities to record both dispatch and phone calls.

Talk shifted to the various cameras installed in city properties including the Rainsville City Park, Field of Dreams Sports Complex, City Hall, Rainsville Wastewater Treatment Plant, Police Department and jail.

“Every camera in this city should be monitored by the police department when you have someone there watching 24/7,” said Councilman Rickey Byrum.

Blevins said the investigators also brought up the city’s camera system. He said although video footage was obtained from a local business, it would have benefited the situation if the city had cameras at the crossroads of Alabama Highway 75 and Alabama Highway 35.

Edmondson said currently, the police department only has access to the cameras in Rainsville City Park and the police department.

“Every system we have is all IP based. So, that means they can get access to all of them. That’s no problem,” Lingerfelt said.

Edmondson said regarding the placement of cameras at the Rainsville crossroads, he would contact FTC about the matter because it would be helpful to have a watchful eye at that intersection.

“Moving forward, we just need to make sure we have all our ducks in a row,” said Blevins. “Things are getting a lot crazier in our world. We need to make sure safety is our number one deal.”

The council also heard updates from the following departments:

Councilman Brandon Freeman took the opportunity to announce the pee wee football season begins Saturday at 1 p.m. at Plainview High School.

Rainsville Fire Chief Willimac Wright reminded the public the Alabama Department of Environmental Management’s annual burn ban began May 1, 2021, through Oct. 31, 2021, as part of ADEM efforts to protect air quality in various areas of the state.

Rainsville Police Chief Michael Edmondson announced their amnesty effort to clean up existing warrants brought in $46,000. He said currently, there are still 1,812 warrants in their system due to new ones being added every court and payment review day because people don’t show up.

“If people would show up and show the judge and our court clerk that they are trying, paying her $25, they wouldn’t get a warrant,” said Edmondson. “These are tough times and we understand if you have children, but if you can pay a little bit on your fine, that’s all we are really asking.”

The council also:

• approved moving the Sept. 6 council meeting to Tuesday, Sept. 7 due to the Labor Day holiday.

• approved to abolish Ordinance 8-5-2019 pertaining to business license fee which dropped the fee from $50 to $25. With the abolishment the ordinance will revert back to the original Ordinance 10-15-2007 with the fee of $50.

• approved the hiring of Brandon Dupree as a part-time floater for the Rainsville Public Works Department.

• approved the hiring of Blake Farmer as a mechanic for the Rainsville Public Works Department.

• accepted Rainsville Fire Department Grant of $26,000 with the city matching 10% for the purchasing of two Thermal Imaging Cameras.

• approved increasing the Northeast Alabama Agri-Business Center line of credit at First Southern State Bank from $15,000 to $50,000 for the project campsite which includes the addition of 75 more camping spots. Councilman Blevins and Rickey Byrum abstained from voting.

• approved the emergency repair of the pump station on Chambers Ave at the cost of $29,890.00 by Living Water Utilities LLC.

The next council meeting is scheduled for Sept. 7, 2021, with a workshop at 4 p.m. and a regular session at 4:30 p.m.

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