The Crime Prevention Officer program in Opelika, is trying to stamp out violence and drug use in the community. They dress like police officers, they drive around in marked cars, some even carry fake guns. Will Easley knows personally, how drugs and violence can destroy lives.
"My 7-year-old son got killed by a drug dealer that was trying to get away from the police," Easley said.
Five years ago he began patrolling Opelika neighborhoods by himself, for free. Now, Apartment Complexes and schools pay his team of 30 Crime Prevention Officers to provide security.
"I don't want anybody to feel, especially law enforcement that we are trying go take their place, we are doing this cause we admire the police and we are trying to help them," he said.
But to a normal person, A CPO looks like a police officer. That's caused some problems for Opelika Police. "A lot of them are not trained and they go over what their job description is. Sometimes that causes problems. We spend countless hours investigation public complaints on officers that turn out to be CPO, " Chief Tommy Mangum said. A
nd while some CPO's are certified to carry guns, others carry fake ones. Opelika Police Chief Mangum, said that's just dangerous.
"Theres a cliché don't bring a knife into a gun fight, well don't bring a plastic gun into a gun fight either," Mangum said.
Easley said no CPO has ever had to pull a weapon, fake or not. He says his men and women replace intimidation with communication, earning respect in communities that are historically fearful of police.
"Police during the time I was growing up were the enemy. It wasn't just the KKK calling us names, Police called us names," Easley said.