MOBILE — The Mobile City Council voted unanimously to oust Police Chief Paul Prine after months of controversy surrounding a review of policies and procedures. Prine is OK with the decision, which he said would affect his strategy for the future.

The review, performed by former U.S. Attorney Kenyen Brown, was questioned after Mayor Sandy Stimpson put Prine on administrative leave.

The council also voted to approve an independent investigation by a third party.

Mobile City Council Alabama News
Photo: Erica Thomas.

Mobile resident Rene Chapa addressed the council in support of Prine and thanked the police department for protecting and serving the city.

"I don't see any reason why the chief should be fired," Chapa said. "None whatsoever and if asking a question or bringing a grievance forth causes a termination, that doesn't qualify for termination. That's him doing his job."

Others spoke in support of Prine, including Sarah Alexander, who explained how policy changes in Memphis and Chicago led to an increase in homicides. She said these policies were advocated by Brown.

"Kenyen Brown knows the stats," Alexander said. "Kenyen's never threatened Memphis or Chicago with the DOJ."

Stimpson said it is offensive that people would compare the city of Mobile to such places.

Prine alleges Brown's investigation ran a proverbial bus "slap over the Mobile Police Department" and discredited all of the department's success during his tenure as chief.

Councilman William Carroll said he asked Brown if he was suggesting the police department was profiling, and Brown told him, "Yes." He said the council has a strong responsibility to restore the public trust.

"The most important thing is we have to get this behind us because the city must move on," he said.

Carroll said what was formerly known as "The Jump-Out Boys" was changed in Stimpson's first year in office, but all that changed was their name. He said there is still a culture issue that needs to be addressed.

Councilman Cory Penn spoke up, saying there are some great people in the city and in the police department, but he has been a victim of profiling in the community.

"In that moment, I have two kids and I wanted to get home," he said.

Penn agreed racial tensions needed to be addressed.

Stimpson announced he wants all materials to be sent to the Alabama Attorney General's Office. He is requesting an investigation into contracts Prine has raised questions about and filed grievances on. Stimpson said two investigations, one by the law firm of City Attorney Ricardo Woods and the other by the Mobile Office of Professional Responsibility. He said both of those investigations came back showing nothing illegal occurred.

"I'm aware that many are not satisfied with who conducted these investigations," Stimpson said. "They're going to be interested in transparency and help restore public trust and confidence. I'd recommend the city attorney to send all the investigative material and courts to the attorney general, which is being done this morning."

Stimpson said once the AG's office gets involved, the city must send all requested materials. He hopes that will help to grow public trust.

Before voting on the two resolutions, the council took a recess and held a heated Committee of the Whole meeting to discuss possible amendments.

The council spent much time discussing the possibility of a third-party investigation.

Council president C.J. Small said he would be happy not doing the investigation but wanted to do what's right by the people in the community.

Councilwoman Gina Gregory said she doesn't feel the administration has done anything wrong but is willing to support a broad resolution for an investigation. She said details about what exactly would be investigated and who would be doing the investigation could be decided at a later date.

Councilman Joel Daves said he would not be bullied into supporting something he doesn't want to support. He said he did not support an investigation because he believed it would waste time and money. He did not go into detail about what prompted him to make the statement.

Councilman Josh Woods said the city must move forward in a timely manner.

Carroll said it was time to stop wasting everyone's time. He felt the two resolutions would not be approved, so he didn't see the need to discuss the issues further. Carroll said he was willing to pull the investigation into ShotSpotter because the city would no longer use the service anyway. The new amendment states the city will investigate whether the administration looked into grievances filed by Prine and whether there was collusion between a third party and an investigator in an attempt to silence or oust the chief.

When the council returned from recess, it approved the resolution to perform a third-party investigation. Daves was the only person who voted no. The next step is for the council to appoint an investigative committee.

The council then voted unanimously to end Prine's employment with the City of Mobile.

Prine said he was not surprised because some council members made prejudicial statements. He also said the council should have talked to him directly about concerns instead of going through TV interviews to communicate.

"If the council really wanted to know the information, they would have personally called me into an executive session like they've done with the councilors like they've done with the mayor and the chief of staff and like they did with Kenyen Brown," he said.

Prine said he would sleep well tonight.

"They terminated me, and if I am going to be terminated from being chief of police, I'll sleep well tonight," he said.

Prine said his fight is not over, and he plans to release more information in the coming days. He also urged MPD officers to continue doing their jobs to protect and serve.

When asked by 1819 News if Prine's main concern was with the mayor or his chief of staff, he alluded to concerns about chief of staff James Barber.

"So, for one, we're talking about project Thrive," Prine said. "The fact that the chief of staff has influence or control over the mayor's discretionary funds and moved $10,000 of the mayor's funds to a non -profit organization that he, in essence, is the director of that program. To me, that is a conflict of interest. Whether it's criminal or not is yet to be determined. But it's certainly the appearances impropriety."

Prine said by retiring 18 months early, he would lose out on $18,000 a year for the rest of his natural life. When asked what is next, he said a mayoral run is possible.

"I've never had an inclination to run but who knows?" Prine said when asked by a reporter. "Maybe I will."

Meanwhile, Stimpson said he believes the recent controversy is 100% politically-motivated.

Stimpson held a press conference following the decision, saying his next step would be rebuilding the community's trust. He said all documents sent to the council, including emails and contracts, will be available to the public.

Mayor Sandy Stimpson Alabama News
Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson. Photo: Erica Thomas.

He said the back-and-forth with Prine and the allegations made in the community had hurt the city. He said that leaders would seek God's face in the future to ensure they are doing the right thing.

"This whole saga has damaged the reputation of several career employees who have done nothing wrong," Stimpson said. "It has caused strife and division within the city, and it has tarnished the image of the city."

Stimpson said he would also focus on working with the police department and other law enforcement agencies to fight crime.

The mayor said the AG investigation would be more productive than a council-independent investigation, but he supports the council's right to move forward on its own.

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