The first official lawman may have been Mr. John T. White in 1936. He apparently wore many hats as he was known as Mayor, Judge, and Justice of the Peace. Prior to the enactment of the Alabama Peace Officer’s Standards and Training Act in the 1960’s several served as lawmen for our small town. They had little or no police training and relied mostly on brawn and street savvy. The only equipment possibly furnished to the officer was a badge, a hat, and a gun. The uniform was usually his white or blue Sunday shirt and some clean pants. The patrol car was the officer's family vehicle, if there was one. Later, the town owned a siren that would be moved to the current officer’s vehicle. There were no lights or identifying markings on the vehicles.
Two local jailhouses served the community over the years. The first was a brick structure consisting of two cells. It was located near where the old water tank stands today behind the Senior's Center. Whether it naturally fell apart or was blown apart with dynamite is unknown. Both stories are occasionally discussed.
Another jail was later built closer to Metcalf St, where the fire station now stands. It was white block construction also with two cells. Wooden shutters were closed over the windows during cold weather. There were no rules or regulations governing detention in those days. A prisoner was locked in a cell and periodically checked on. This jail was last used around 1960 and was demolished shortly after. The Houston County Jail now houses persons arrested by the Cottonwood P.D.
In 1964 the Town purchased its first patrol car. It was a black and white Dodge sedan. A red “teardrop” rotating light was mounted on the roof and decals were placed on the doors and the trunk. A replica of the decal is centered above. A year or so later, a radio was installed for communicating with the Houston County Sheriff’s Dept. The Cottonwood PD was now considered "modern".
As with any small town, the turnover rate of police officers is high. Several men have served as chief or as officers for the town. Many good young men began their law enforcement careers in Cottonwood.
In 2004 the Town of Cottonwood appointed Jim Smith as Police Chief. Chief Smith brought over 20 years of law enforcement experience to Cottonwood. He is a highly trained and dedicated lawman with knowledge in all phases of police and government administration and functionality. With him, he brought many changes to the department as well as to the town. New programs were initiated and up to date, state of the art police equipment and practices were implemented. In 2011 Chief Smith stepped down to take a job at Troy University but remained an officer with the Cottonwood PD. He was replaced by Officer Gary Edwards who currently serves as Chief of Police.
A small but effective part of the police department is the K-9 division. K-9 Officer Cheisey and her handler have become a vital and a well known part of the department.
In January of 2014 the town established a Dept. of Public Safety and Smith was appointed as Director. He oversees all emergency services in Cottonwood.
The department furnishes police services to an area of 18 square miles with a jurisdictional population of near 4,000. The small department handles over 5,000 calls annually.