TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WIAT) — In the 14 years since taking office, Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox considers hiring Steve Anderson as chief of the Tuscaloosa Police Department to be one of his best decisions.
“Not only was this decision consequential, but it was beneficial to the city of Tuscaloosa,” Maddox said Wednesday during a press conference.
Anderson, who has served as police chief since 2008, announced Wednesday that as of Aug. 30, he would be stepping down to take a job at the University of Alabama as the director of system security.
In his new position, Anderson will report directly to UA System Chancellor Finis E. St. John IV. As the city looks to fill Anderson’s position, TPD Assistant Chief Mitt Tubbs will lead the department.
“I take pride in the fact that I have had this opportunity and I do not take it lightly,” Anderson. “I take pride in the outpouring of love and support I have received form the community over the years.”
Anderson was selected over six finalists to be hired as chief, making him the first black police chief in the city’s history. Anderson succeeded longtime police chief Ken Swindle, who had served as chief for 20 years.
Anderson, 48, first joined the Tuscaloosa Police Department as a patrol officer in 1994. Working his way up through the department, he was named head of the TPD’s Internal Affairs Division by 2003 and was named captain by 2007.
“I just want to be viewed as a police chief that’s going to do the right thing, who’s going to be fair to everyone I come in contact with,” Anderson said during his swearing-in ceremony, according to The Tuscaloosa News.
Anderson said one of his biggest regrets as police chief has been not being able to introduce any effective initiatives to curb gun violence in the city. Between April 30 and July 10, there were 17 people who were shot in Tuscaloosa, including two deaths.
“No matter what we’ve done over the years, no matter what type of initiative we have rolled out, no matter how many people we have arrested and sent to prison, the cycle just continues to be vicious and it does not seem to be a cycle we can break,” he said.
Throughout his tenure as chief, Anderson served a very public role within the city, often appearing with Mayor Walt Maddox and Tuscaloosa City Schools Superintendent Mike Daria at events and press conferences to emphasize the importance of safety in the community. Over the years, he worked to split up the police department, adding different precincts throughout the city. In the last couple of years, Anderson and the Tuscaloosa City Council worked to ensure there was at least one student resource officer in every elementary, middle and high school in the city.
Back in April, the police department was at the center of a controversial video that showed two officers taking down a suspect who was part of a hit-and-run case. The video of the arrest, in which one officer was shown striking the victim with a baton and swearing at her, quickly went viral (see related).
Anderson, who released bodycam footage of the incident quickly after the online video was released, said he was disgusted by the language used during the arrest and that the officers’ behavior was not consistent with what the department was about.
“Incidents like this can tear down all our efforts and that’s a problem for me,” Anderson said at the time. “Now, we have to start the process over of gaining the public’s trust back and that’s what we will be working toward from this point forward is trying to gain the public’s trust because of this incident right here.”
Anderson, a native of Perry County, graduated from the University of Alabama in 1993 with a degree in criminal justice.
You can watch the press conference about Anderson’s retirement below: