MOBILE — Before 1985, the City of Mobile was governed by an elected three-member commission. Each commissioner headed different city government departments, and the three rotated as mayor once every 16 months.

That system was scrapped in 1985 for a seven-member council from districts and one mayor elected from the city at large.

Since that time, the city government has added layers of non-elected officials.

Now, former police chief Paul Prine says that an elected Public Safety Commissioner who is "accountable to the people" may be needed.

Prine spoke Tuesday night to Eagle Forum of Alabama at their West Mobile meeting. A crowd of about 80 Mobilians heard Prine explain the problems in city government that led to his ouster as police chief earlier this year.

Prine cited bureaucrats as one major factor. He described them as unelected and not accountable to the people. He said two unelected bureaucrats are above the police chief, causing administrative problems.

There has been speculation that Prine might run for mayor in the 2025 city elections. Prine did not mention that possibility in his 45-minute presentation.

Prine told the story of his selection as police chief in October of 2021. He says his two goals from that point were to lower crime and reduce attrition of police officers. Attrition is the net loss of police officers. He said that in 2020-21, the year before he took over as chief, 101 officers had been lost to attrition, including retirements, taking other jobs such as sheriff’s deputies “at a dollar an hour more pay,” and terminations.

He said the department reduced attrition by 48% during his 2 ½ years as chief. He also said 2022 was “the single best year in crime reduction since 1988.”

Prine said he may have been “a chief too aggressive against crime.”

Another problem Prine cited is “taking federal money, which opens you up to federal controls.”

An investigation of the department was started during Prine’s tenure.

He said, “There may have been a ploy to make me a scapegoat.”

“I didn’t choose to be here," he added. "I had lived a very quiet life.”

Prine also said, “This is not over. There is still a special investigation, and we will see the results. My hope is that they will do the right thing.”

Hill Springs Baptist Church hosted the presentation on Eliza Stephens Road. A person walking in late might have mistaken the meeting for a church service, as Prine told the story of his “encounter with God.”  He had been shot three times as he and other officers handled a domestic dispute. He lay on the ground and said, “I am fixing to die. I called on Jesus that night.”

Prine, of course, did not die, but he did lose his left kidney and suffered serious internal injuries. 

He had talked of the experience later, and he says two news media outlets got it right – Lagniappe and 1819 News.

Since exiting as police chief, Prine says he needs a new job. He says he “made a lot of money as police chief.”

“Don’t feel sorry for me. I am not a victim.”

Jim ‘Zig’ Zeigler’s beat is the colorful and positive about Alabama. He writes about Alabama people, places, events, groups and prominent deaths. He is a former Alabama Public Service Commissioner and State Auditor. You can reach him for comments at

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