The mayor of Irondale has gone on the offensive to find the person who released a police report naming a city councilman’s son in a marijuana trafficking incident.
Jefferson County District Attorney David Barber is now investigating police handling of the case, according to a published report, and Irondale Mayor Allen Ramsey is demanding police officers take lie detector tests to find out who gave the police report to a morning radio talk show.
“We’re looking into it. That’s all I’m going to say,” Barber said.
An Irondale police report names Matt Jackson, 19, son of Councilman Ray Jackson, as the defendant in an April 28 marijuana trafficking incident. Officers found 3 gallon-sized plastic zipper bags of a green, leafy substance “believed to be marijuana” in the car he was driving, according to the police report.
In the report, an Irondale officer wrote that he told an Irondale detective “that the subject (Jackson) was under arrest for possession of marijuana.” The report stated the offense was trafficking marijuana. Marijuana trafficking is a felony offense.
Jackson, according to the report, ran from the officers, who lost him after pursuing him for a few blocks. The report also stated that “felony warrants are pending.”
It was not clear this morning whether Jackson was ever formally charged.
A Jefferson County District Attorney’s office official said today that normally, when someone is arrested for a felony, that person is taken before a judge within 72 hours, and charges and a bond are determined there.
Ramsey said at a City Council meeting Tuesday that the police reports are confidential.
However, Dennis Bailey, an attorney who specializes in freedom-of-information cases and works with the Alabama Press Association, disagrees.
“It should raise questions as to why this individual report was not available to the public except by a whistleblower,” Bailey said.
“By and large these reports are made available to the public and they should be to prevent this situation from happening, i.e., a connected person doesn’t have their report made available while if it were Joe Blow on the street it would be public record for them.”
At the council meeting Tuesday, Ramsey said he wanted to submit city employees to a polygraph test.
None of the Irondale City Council members contacted Wednesday would comment on the police report. Messages left for Irondale Police Chief Norman Stapp were not returned Wednesday.
The district attorney’s investigation began after someone gave Russ and Dee Fine, morning radio hosts at WYDE (101.1 FM), a copy of the arrest report detailing the arrest.
“I think it smells bad. I think it appears as though Ray Jackson’s son is receiving preferential treatment,” Dee Fine said.
Fine said she notified Ramsey, then Barber and the FBI.
She said she was surprised by Ramsey’s reaction to the information she brought him. Instead of launching an investigation into the fact that Matt Jackson had never been charged, Ramsey “circles the wagons,” Fine said.
The plan to use a lie detector on city police officers has Irondale council members divided.
“I’ll be the first one in line to take it,” Councilwoman Sue Miles said.
Miles said she didn’t want to say anything else because of Barber’s investigation.
Other members remain steadfast against the test.
“I’m not in favor of giving the lie detector test,” Councilman Ronald Bagwell said. Bagwell said he wouldn’t take the test.
Councilman Jack Boone said he wouldn’t take a test, but he would vote for giving the test to others if the polygraph operator came from outside the city of Irondale.
“I wouldn’t have any problem voting for it if we brought somebody from outside that wasn’t affiliated with anybody in the city,” Boone said.
Councilman Pete Crye wouldn’t comment on the lie detector tests, but he said he objected to what he called the release of “confidential information” from the Police Department.
“The front (of the report) is (public record), the back isn’t,” Crye said.
Crye said the back could include witness names and addresses, which he said weren’t public record. There are no names of witnesses on the report for Matt Jackson, except the police officer’s names. Bailey said, in some instances, the backs of police reports are not made public ‹ usually if there is some investigative work included on the back.
There is only a recount of the incident on the back of the report, as shown in a copy obtained by the Birmingham Post-Herald.