It’s not exactly how most retired police chiefs spend their time.
“I retired on a Thursday and went back to work Friday,” said Dryden, who after leaving the Anniston police force two years ago, took a job working for the Street Department. Since October, he’s been heading up details of city jail inmates, driving all over the city, four days a week, 10 hours a day, to clean up roads and public property.
“I got to be out doing something,” he said. “I’ve seen so many people who retire and just go home, sit and die.”
Of course, inmate detail crews are nothing new for Anniston, but Dryden’s former colleagues in the Police Department began soliciting public requests for cleanup through Twitter and Facebook in October. That idea was new, and it started with a suggestion from Dryden.
“It was just a good way to get to get the public’s input on what they think should be done,” he said, “something to make the area not only safer, but cleaner.”
Police latched on to the idea immediately.
“We have something like 11,000 followers in one central location,” said Lt. Russell Buckalew. “We’ve had a good response.”
Buckalew said in the first week the department got around 50 requests and the numbers haven’t diminished.
Capt. Bill Wilburn said that before implementing the project on social media sites, the department would have received a few calls about areas residents wanted to see get spruced up, but for the most part, the public didn’t have any say in the assignment of inmate crew details.
“Now we got so many calls, we can’t do them all,” Wilburn said. “Some of them are out of our jurisdiction.”
“We also get a lot of calls for private property,” Buckalew said with a laugh.
Alabama 202 is a frequent route for Dryden and his crew. He said it often takes a full day to clean the highway.
“You can look on the truck and see how bad it is,” he said, pointing at the loaded garbage bags overflowing his pickup’s bed.
After working four hours, the crew had made it about halfway from the starting point at Quintard Avenue to the city limit. That wasn’t counting the eastbound side of the highway crew members would hit on the way back.
“Which is fine by me,” Dryden said. “I would rather be outside.”
No one who worked with Dryden during his days as the chief of police is surprised he still wants to work 40 hours a week.
“He was the hardest-working guy we had,” Buckalew said. “Just an absolutely great guy.”
And one who’s easy to get along with, too.
“We were a little hesitant about having the former chief of police come back to work for us, but he put everybody at ease,” Buckalew said. “He’s just one of the guys.”
And his idea to use social media for inmate detail has been an unqualified success for the department, police said.
“We get a lot of calls and thank yous,” Buckalew said. “Everyone thinks they’re doing a great job.”
Star staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546