CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -- Sergeant Craig Joel with the Chattanooga Police Department is accusing Mayor Ron Littlefield of using "bullying tactics" because he publicly voiced concerns over officer pay.
Sergeant Joel is the vice president of the local Fraternal Order of Police union chapter. The controversy stems from his comments made Tuesday night during the city council meeting.
Joel thanked the administration for funding the Police Officer Career Development Program but voiced concerns for higher ranking officers, who he says are owed back pay.
The mayor's office fired back, telling council to consider dropping funding for the program altogether.
"This process has brought forth several questions as to how we get to the point where we have to make the 1.2, 1.3 million dollar balloon payments to the officers that have participated in the career development program," said Sgt. Joel at Tuesday night's city council meeting.
Joel is talking about the money owed to ranking police officers who participated in the career development program but were not paid for it during a pay freeze.
"My request tonight is asking you to encourage the office of the mayor, the current or the future, to put a plan, an actual plan in place. We have none."
Joel went on to give his own salary as an example, saying he never received a pay increase from 2008 to 2010.
Richard Beeland, with the Mayor's office, immediately fired back with an email to Channel 3 saying: "We felt the need to clarify some of the information that Officer Craig Joel provided during the public comment portion of last night's meeting. We understand that Mr. Joel was not in his official capacity as a Chattanooga Police Department Sergeant. However, some of his statements require correction."
Beeland goes on to say Joel in fact received raises in '07 and '08. Beeland also says, "This administration hesitates at throwing another $1.3 million into a career development program that representatives of the police department are not satisfied is equitable."
We reached out to Joel. He declined an interview, but told us over the phone he never once complained about his current pay. He just wants the pay scale to be fair, saying a recently promoted officer is making $5,000 more on his first day, versus a sergeant of five years.
Joel takes Beeland's response personally, saying, "His press release to the media was clearly an unabashed effort to embarrass me personally and divide our officers. His attempt to embarrass me personally has only served to embarrass us all."
Joel says he does not speak for the entire department, just those in the union. He also apologized for any anxiety created within the department.
We reached out to the Mayor's office and Mr. Beeland for an interview but our request was denied.
Below is the statement from the Mayor's office and Sgt. Joel's response as well as statement for the attorney representing the Fraternal Order of Police:
Statement from the Mayor's office in response to Sgt. Joel's statements at city council:
We felt the need to clarify some of the information that Officer Craig Joel provided during the public comment portion of last night's meeting. We understand that Mr. Joel was not in his official capacity as a Chattanooga Police Department Sergeant. However, some of his statements require correction.
1. According to the recording of last evening meeting, Mr. Joel said: "When I was promoted in 2006 my pay was adjusted once by a new plan that was put into place. That pay stayed the same in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010…"
According to records obtained from the Personnel Department, Mr. Joel has received the following pay increases:
• July 1, 2006 - annual rate of pay changed from $36,658.00 to $37,758.00 (3% increase)
• July 21, 2006 - annual rate of pay changed from $37,758.00 to $40,518.00 (promotion to Sergeant - 7.3% increase)
• July 1, 2007 - annual rate of pay changed from $40,518.00 to $41,734.00 (3% increase)
• January 1, 2008 - annual rate of pay changed from $41,734.00 to $43,692.00 (4.69% increase)
• July 1, 2010 - annual rate of pay changed from $43,692.00 to $54,000.00 (23.592% increase)
2. Mr. Joel also said: "Officers who have been there three years or less are not eligible." to participate in the Police Officer Career Development (POCD) program. That is inaccurate. The clock on the "three years" starts when an officer begins an academy, which is their first day of employment with the city. After completing one year of employment (including the academy), an officer receives a "cadet bump" and achieves the rank of Police Officer 1 which includes a 5.3% increase in pay. In practice and according to the POCD policy manual within the Police Department, an officer is eligible to participate in POCD at the three year mark (just two years from their prior pay increase). During this two-year period, an officer can be fulfilling the necessary training that will allow for advancement on the career ladder (next step is Police Officer II) which includes a 6% pay increase once they reach the three year mark. The next step in the POCD program is Police Officer III and can be achieved after 5 cumulative years of employment which already includes two prior ranks and two prior pay increases and has an additional 6% pay increase. The final rung on the "career ladder" is the Master Police Officer. This can be achieved after 10 cumulative years of employment and includes three prior pay increases and an additional 6% increase. All advancements in the POCD program have built-in pay increases. Additionally, the Chief's authority to waive the required time in each level and advance an employee would result in a double digit increase (example: Police Officer II 6% increase + Police Officer III 6% increase would result in an immediate 12% increase in pay).
3. Mr. Joel also said: "Anyone above the rank of Master Patrolman is not eligible. Sergeants, Lieutenants, Captains." The ranks of Sergeant, Lieutenant and Captain are outside of the POCD and were never intended to be included. Those ranks can be achieved by a combination of experience, merit, job performance and availability.
The City offers promotional opportunities to the ranks of Sergeant, Lieutenant, and Captain generally every two years. On June 5,2012, Council approved a proposal (at a cost of $133,828) with Morris and McDaniel to develop and conduct police promotional activities this year.
It has always been this administration's intent that once the POCD was fully funded (FY13 marks the final installment) all future Cost Of Living Adjustments (COLA) would be applied to ALL employees which includes sworn. However, providing the POCD final payment and a COLA would create inequities that would require another anomaly correction and be overwhelmingly unfair to the civilian employees. Civilian employees are not offered a career development program and, regardless of motivation or personal responsibility, unable to move up the ranks in the same manner as a sworn employee.
Chief Dodd has stated on numerous occasions that the POCD is his priority and it should be funded. This administration hesitates at throwing another $1.3 million into a career development program that representatives of the police department are not satisfied is equitable. It may be best to hold off on funding the POCD and instead, fund a career advancement study for the police department to determine the best way to move forward.
Additional, it is imperative that all career development programs be managed by the City of Chattanooga Personnel Department (in cooperation with CPD administration, of course) to ensure objectivity and equity for all participants.
We hope this clears up any misinformation and provides clarity on this issue.
Sgt. Craig Joel's full statement to Channel 3:
As a point of clarification, the Fraternal Order of Police does not represent the Chattanooga Police Department. It does, however, represent over 300 of its Officers and that is who we speak for. This is made clear at the beginning of every Council presentation and media interview.
My recorded words were actually of praise for the Mayor's efforts to present the Council with multiple options for employee bonuses and cost of living adjustments, as well as appreciation that the Police Officer Career Development plan was finally being completely funded.
What I addressed was the clear lack of a plan at all for those that are not a part of it, which is nearly a third of the Department that the FOP also has an obligation to speak for. It is for this he is clearly trying to punish our hardest working officers who have in fact already earned the $1.3 million in question that is in actuality a balloon payment for salary already owed.
I am perfectly satisfied with my current my salary, and I wasn't requesting money or even a change for this fiscal year. I simply asked for a plan that would keep new promotees from making more than current supervisors, and for the City to comply with the Civil Rights Act of 1963 with which I do not believe they are doing. I made this request for a plan at the suggestion of one of the Council members themselves.
The Career Development Plan for city police is the only pay plan we have for our Officers, and to imply I criticized it is as ludicrous as Mr. Beeland's implication that I or any member of the FOP could have such influence over Mayor Littlefield's budgetary decisions.
His press release to the media was clearly an unabashed effort to embarrass me personally and divide our Officers by threatening them by withholding pay they have already earned under a pay plan that he had frozen after implementing it, and I stand by my words that this is the act of a common bully threatening the hard working officers that answer your 911 calls for help and keep our city safe during times in which crime and gangs are something his office can no longer downplay. He made no attempt to disguise his behavior, so I make no attempt to apologize for it.
I do apologize, however, for any unnecessary anxiety this has created for Chattanooga's Officers, and I have full confidence that the Council will see through this as the retaliatory threat that it is and not punish their police men and women over what is clearly a personal issue that should be beneath the Office of the Mayor.
His attempt to embarrass me personally has only served to embarrass us all, and I would now very much like to get back to the business of discussing a plan for our future.
Sergeant Craig Joel Vice President, Fraternal Order of Police Rock City Lodge #22
Statement from Davis & Hoss:
Stevie Phillips, Attorney at Davis & Hoss, PC, on behalf of Sergeant Craig Joel and other members of the local Fraternal Order of Police
We feel the need to clarify the scope of the Police Officer Career Development Program in light of Mayor Littlefield's statement earlier this week that members of the Department who have not received raises have not done anything to earn them and are apparently "content to stay where they are at."
The Department is divided into the ranks of Captain, Lieutenant, Sergeant, and Officer. The Police Officer Career Development Program applies only to Officers. To benefit from the program's training and associated pay raises, members of the top three ranks would have to actually take a demotion. The large majority of these men and women were promoted before the Career Development Program was implemented and have therefore never had an opportunity to reap its benefits.
There is no incentivized pay plan for members of the top three ranks: most of those individuals have been stuck at their current salaries since at least 2010.
As a result, there is now a pay anomaly. Specifically, some Officers within the Police Officer Career Development Program are now making more money than their supervising Sergeants. Similarly, there are recently promoted Sergeants who have just completed the Career Development Program who are making more than Sergeants with three plus years in rank. These new Sergeants climbed the Career Development Program ladder and then received an additional raise at the time of their promotion.
Sergeant Craig Joel and other members of the Department have repeatedly filed grievances on this issue but have been told time and time again that they cannot grieve pay. What the Mayor does not appear to realize is that the current pay plan undermines the allocation of authority and responsibility within the Department by rewarding younger, less experienced Officers at the expense of their older, more experienced supervisors.
The solution is the establishment of pay ranges that reflect the chain of command and prevent future anomalies—a task that does not require a multi-million dollar career advancement study as the Mayor has now suggested. These men and women are not asking for raises, they are simply asking for a plan that is fair and equitable. The City Code and the Department's Policy Manual guarantee them at least that much.
Davis & Hoss, PC, Attorneys for the local Fraternal Order of Police.