A rally is planned Saturday for Mobile Police Chief Paul Prine, and officers are coming forward to voice their support for him after he was put on administrative leave this week.

The rally was initially planned for a smaller area in Mobile but had to be moved to Municipal Park due to the number of people planning to attend.

"He's highly regarded," said a former officer who worked in Mobile for over 20 years. "He's a policeman's chief. He's come up through the ranks with many of us and we have known him for decades. It's very important for us to show that we trust him and that we wish we could keep him as chief."

Several officers spoke to 1819 News about Prine but did not want their identities revealed for fear of retaliation.

Prine was put on administrative leave earlier this week after Mayor Sandy Stimpson said a review of policies and procedures made it clear that the chief and the city administration did not have the same view. Prine said he was forced into retirement because he was a whistleblower on issues he identified as possible improprieties.

The public display has been hard to watch for many, but officers said they support both the chief and Mayor Sandy Stimpson.

"The best way I can describe that is almost like we're the children and it's mom and dad fighting," one officer said. "Whose side do you take? You can't take sides between your mom and dad. You love them both. If mom and dad are fighting, what does a child do? A child can't step in. All they hope is that their parents can figure it out so they can get back to their family."

The officers said watching what happened to the chief was discouraging because they didn't feel he deserved to go out the way he did. For those who have worked with Prine for over two decades, watching his passion for law enforcement was inspirational and made an impression.

"This is disheartening," a longtime friend and former co-worker of Prine told 1819 News. "But we stand behind Chief Prine. We fought with him. We've been there with him, been on scenes with him, even when he was shot, we were there. So, a lot of us have a lot of history with Chief Prine and I cannot be convinced that he is not a good leader. He is a great leader."

"Under Chief Prine's administration, he's had an open door," another officer said. "He has been approachable. Everybody can talk to him. He knows every police officer by name on this, the police department, which is unheard of. I can't tell you how many times I've watched Chief Prine across the room go out of his way to go shake the hand of an officer – just a plain ole officer."

The officers also said they don't want the chief's exit to impact morale within the department because they say he had morale higher than it had been in years.

"We swore an oath to protect and serve the community," an officer said. "And regardless of what happens with this, the citizens are absolutely our first top priority. But it's affecting the department personnel. First morale has taken a huge hit since he's been placed on administrative leave."

"We were a train moving full steam ahead," he continued. "Everybody was genuinely happy. Crime was down. The biggest thing is the attrition rate was down. Attrition is at an all-time low. The numbers speak for themselves."

Prine created a morale committee within the department, and the officer said it made a big difference for the department.

"He sits down and he listens to what we have to say," an officer said about Prine's meetings with the committee. "Every single officer will get in there and speak about what is going on on the street or something that is bothering them. He would take time out of his day to sit down and listen to every single one of us. From the lowest guy on the totem pole, they would get a chance to talk to the chief directly and I think that says a lot about his character and his leadership style because he wants to listen to us."

"He wants to listen to his people and that's not an authoritarian or dictatorship in any means," he continued. "If anything, that shows me and everybody else in this police department that he truly cares about each and every officer."

Because of the positive differences Prine made, another officer told 1819 News they never saw an issue coming.

"It was shocking," he said. "This is shocking. This is not what anyone would have expected out of this leadership because Mayor Stimpson is highly respected as well. He's the policeman's mayor. Some people have been around since the Mike Dow days and there's no comparison in what we believe Mayor Simpson to be compared to the previous mayor."

Officers said they had a clear view of where the department was headed, but they are now unsure. Some say they hope it's not too late to keep Prine as chief.

"Chief Prine's job is not done we don't want to see him leave this police department," he said. "This city needs Chief Prine and Chief Prine, if you're if you're reading this, your job here is not done. We need you, we want you, we need you."

"I don't think because you put a badge on, it makes you more ethical," another officer said. "I think it starts with the man, the person. He's always been so very reliable. He's taken every lesson, every assignment to make him out to be who he is. He's a really great person, and there are so many people who respect him."

The rally on Saturday at Municipal Park, off Zieger Boulevard, will begin at noon.

To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email erica.thomas@1819news.com.

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