Several officers with the Prichard Police Department have begun a sick-out campaign for higher pay, a city official confirmed Tuesday afternoon.
Chief of Staff Philip Stiell said he met with officers Monday morning and they expressed frustration over pay. According to Stiell, sworn officers make about $23,000 per year, or roughly $11 per hour.
“[Monday] evening, certain members of the patrol unit began to call in sick,” Stiell said. “It continued [Tuesday] morning.”Stiell said the city has had to supplement patrols with administrative officers and detectives. He said Mobile County sheriff’s deputies are providing some patrols, while the state bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has given support when needed. Stiell added that Alabama Law Enforcement Agency officers could also respond to calls.
“We have the normal complement of officers on the street,” he said.
The City Council has called a special meeting today at 4 p.m. and Stiell said city officials are looking into a number of possible solutions. The most obvious being raises for officers.
“We recognize the level of pay they’re on,” he said. “While we concur with their plea, we don’t condone their actions.”
In the meantime, Stiell said, the administration asks that officers come back to work.
“I think it’s important that they come back to work,” he said.
Officers got a 5 percent pay raise in 2013 and 2015, Stiell said. However, Mobile just finalized $5,000 pay raises and step raises for police officers and firefighters on Tuesday when the City Council approved the fiscal year 2017 budget.
At a press conference today, Mayor Troy Ephriam shifted some of the blame to the City Council and urged members to pass his 2017 budget proposal, which includes 10 percent raises. He told reporters he had proposed similar raises in the 2016 fiscal year budget but the council did not pass it. The city, therefore, is still operating off of fiscal year 2015 budget figures, Ephriam confirmed.
Ephriam said at least two of the officers who did not show up for work did not properly call in and will be facing termination procedures. “We will not allow them to forsake their oath,” he said. The other officers, Ephriam said, will have to provide a note from a doctor upon returning to work, or they could suffer the same fate.
To complicate matters, Ephriam faces challenger and former Prichard Police Chief Jimmie Gardner in a runoff slated for Tuesday, Oct. 4. When asked, Ephriam said he felt the timing of the sick out was politically motivated.
“I think it’s pretty obvious where this is coming from,” he said.