Upset over a change in their holiday policy, DeKalb County Police officers in a blog have called for a slowdown in ticket-writing. County officials are taking notice.
“Beginning Labor Day 2011 (how appropriate), we will be forced to burn our vacation time after the county has chosen to reduce the amount of vacation time we can carry over,” said an anonymous person on the DeKalb Officers Speak blog.
Jeff Wiggs, president of the DeKalb Fraternal Order of Police, said his organization does not endorse any type of ticket writing slowdown or work slowdown.
“We’re still enforcing the law,” Wiggs said. “This is not free rein on [Interstate] 285. We’re still going to pull you over. We’re still going to write you a ticket.”
At issue is how the police department assesses holidays. In 2002, the police department changed its standard work week from five eight-hour days to four 10-hour shifts.
With that change there was an agreement that officers would be given the holidays equivalent to their work day, DeKalb Police Chief William O’Brien said.
“That’s what we’ve been doing since 2002,” O’Brien said.
And for the past nine years, that policy has been inconsistent with county code, according to Benita Ransom, the county’s human resources director. Every other county department assesses an eight-hour value to each of the county’s 10 holidays.
“Police work four 10-hour days,” Ransom said. “They were assessing the holiday at a value of 10 hours. If, for whatever reason, they couldn’t use their holidays, they were banking 100 hours of holiday pay as opposed to 80 hours.
“We are attempting to correct that,” Ransom said. “The shift you work does not determine the value of the holiday.”
Under the new policy—which is being reviewed by the Board of Commissioners, when officers take a holiday or bank it, it will have a value of eight hours, even though their work day is a 10-hour shift.
To cover the additional two hours, officers will have to use two extra hours of vacation as compensation time, Ransom said.
Employees in other county departments—E-911, sanitation, sheriff’s office–work alternate shifts and are following the policy, except the police department, Ransom said.
“We have to treat everybody the same,” she said.
O’Brien said the policy change has caused “dissension among the troops.”
“When they get suspended, they get suspended for 10 hours,” O’Brien said. “When they take vacation days, they’re taking 10 hours of vacation.
“What they’re upset about now is we’re now changing it nine years into the game,” O’Brien said. The normal work day for officers needs to be properly defined.
Commissioner Elaine Boyer, who was on the Board of Commissioners in 2002 when the police work week changed, said she was unaware of the policy change.
“We’re getting the blame for it,” Boyer said. “Although people don’t realize we don’t hire and we don’t fire anyone in the county except for the staff we may personally have.
“The morale is down and the officers think we’re continually kicking them. And we don’t even know about it,” said Boyer, who directed county staff to prepare a written report on the policy change and its history.
Commissioner Larry Johnson said the board will have answers for the police department before the policy is implemented on Labor Day.
“We’re not trying to stop somebody from making a living,” Johnson said. “That’s not our intent.”
Wiggs said he hopes that “things will be resolved and the officers be taken care of like they should be.”
“We’ve been kicked. We’ve been slapped in every direction. We continue to do our job,” Wiggs said. “We are at rock bottom. We are losing officers left and right—veteran officers that are leaving because they are simply fed up.”