FAIRFIELD, Ala. (WIAT) — First responders in the City of Fairfield spent almost a week working for no pay.
That finally came to an end around 5:00 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, when police and firefighters got their paychecks.
Since Fairfield’s leadership decided last week that first responders would be the last to be paid, officers and firefighters have continued to work.
“We care about the people we’re protecting in the community,” said Police Chief Nick Dyer. “The men know if they just go home, these people go unprotected.”
Dyer said morale has been poor, and increasingly difficult to maintain, as this is not the first time the cash-strapped city has withheld paychecks from employees.
“We’ve had people that have taken other jobs because of the situation, and I can’t blame them,” Dyer said. “I have to say everyone that has left told me that they didn’t want to leave.”
While a bare-bones police force is costly to public safety, the officers need a steady income.
However, Dyer said officers are not allowed to transfer within the Jefferson County Personnel System, which includes all but a few smaller police departments.
“It’s getting old. It’s past ridiculous,” said David Crews, the immediate past president of Birmingham’s Fraternal Order of Police, who has been actively advocating for Fairfield police officers since the last time their checks were delayed.
Crews said that in order for a personnel transfer to take place in Jefferson County, it must be approved by the the agency from which the employee is transferring. He said Mayor Kenneth Coachman is the only person in Fairfield who can give that approval, and has refused to do so.
If a Fairfield police officer were to quit, Crews said they would lose their accrued benefits and it could take up to a year to be re-hired in Jefferson County.
“It’s like (Coachman) is holding them hostage,” Crews said. “These guys have got to have their paycheck now. If we can get that worked out where they can transfer, that will help a whole lot. Plus, if they let five or six transfer, that’s going to help them make payroll. Yeah, they’ll be a little more shorthanded, but they’ve got to do something.”
Calls to Coachman’s office on Wednesday were not returned.
Crews said he will meet with the director of Jefferson County’s personnel board Friday to discuss ways to un-block transfers from the City of Fairfield.