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Avery ends loyal career as chief

Friday was the final official day for Charles Avery as chief of the Demopolis Police Department.

Looking back on his years with the department, Avery said he was "dedicated to the city. I’ve tried to do an honest job."

Even as a patrolman it wasn’t fun to arrest people, he said, but it was a job he had to do. Unfortunately, "you make a lot of enemies."

He remembers a time in 1968, while working for the Tuscaloosa Police Department, when he had to arrest his own brother. "He was in violation of the law. I had to…look at the fact that nobody is above the law.

Avery joined the Demopolis force in 1970 and was appointed its chief in 1982. He has served under mayors Hugh Allen and Austin Caldwell.

He remembers Mayor Caldwell saying "we’re not always going to agree on all things, but we will work through it." Avery said Caldwell has always backed him up.

He believes he leaves the department in great shape. The training of the officers has never been better, he said. Demopolis Public Safety Director Jeff Manuel was instrumental in improving that process.

His is particularly proud of the fleet of police cruisers the department has now. "I was able to get rid of all the old units we had," Avery said. "I’m proud to look at the lot and see that we have up-to-date equipment."

When he started with the force in Demopolis there were eight officers, after a high of 24, the current department features 18. An average of 24 officers would be preferable for the local force, he said.

Of the countless cases Avery has dealt with, he remembers the case of a child murdered and the manhunt of the suspect Cleo Hunter. Avery couldn’t remember the exact year, but he was a sargeant at the time. "I was instrumental in apprehending him."

He remembers working with Marengo County Sheriff Billy Smith at the time. His working relationship is still good with the current sheriff Johnny Langley, who used to work with Avery on the Demopolis force.

He has tried to keep good relations with law enforcement throughout the surrounding counties. "I wanted to be able to call up one of them, or they could call up me to respond."

Avery enjoys "the friendliness of the people, black and white" and support he has received in Demopolis. Coming to town from Tuscaloosa, he didn’t expect to stay very long. His stay wound up lasting 34 years.

He calls Tuscaloosa Police Chief Ken Swindle his friend. "If I ran into a problem I would call him for advise.

Avery will continue as a consultant for the police department.

During retirement things will be "at my pace," he said. The long hours and being on call 24 hours will be gone, but he still wants to keep his certification as a police officer.

He is deacon at St. Paul Baptist Church. He also will continue as the host of a gospel music program, Sunday from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. on WXAL radio.