Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson has chosen police chief James Barber to serve as the city’s next public safety director following the resignation of current director Rich Landolt, who is leaving to pursue opportunities in the national security field, the mayor’s office said.
“Rich has earned my gratitude and respect for his honorable service to the citizens of Mobile,” said Stimpson. “Under his leadership, we have modernized our Police and Fire fleets, improved pay for our first responders and hired some of the most diverse, qualified classes in city history. His contributions have moved us closer to our goal of becoming the safest, most business and family friendly city in America.”
Barber has served as a Mobile police officer for 29 years and has served as chief since 2013. In his new role, he’ll oversee the city’s public safety division, which consists of the police, fire-rescue, and safety and performance departments, as well as animal control.
Stimpson also announced he would promote assistant chief Lawrence Battiste to replace Barber as police chief. Both appointments must be approved by the city council, which could take up the issue as early as Tuesday.
“Jim Barber and Lawrence Battiste have demonstrated outstanding leadership in the Mobile Police Department and I have full confidence in their abilities to move our city forward,” Stimpson said. “We hope that the City Council will approve their appointments as quickly as possible to ensure continuity.”
Barber’s tenure as Mobile’s police chief hasn’t passed without controversy, including the 2016 officer-involved shooting of 19-year-old Michael Moore as well as inflammatory Facebook comments posted by Barber and his wife. The shooting of Moore was later ruled to be justified, and Barber issued a public apology for his social media comments.
“The fundamental purpose of government is the safety of the public,” said Barber. “Failure to provide for this fundamental purpose is not an option. I am both humbled and honored to be entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring that this basic obligation is fulfilled.”
Battiste has served as Mobile’s assistant police chief since 2015 after previously serving as the police chief for the nearby city of Prichard, Ala.
“I am extremely honored to have been asked to serve as the next Chief of Police for the City of Mobile,” said Battiste. “I look forward to continuing the vision of Mayor Stimpson and Chief Barber in making Mobile the safest city in America with respect for everyone.”