UPDATE: Jury awards a group of CPD officers more than 1/2 millio - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: Jury awards a group of CPD officers more than 1/2 million dollars in back pay

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

UPDATE: A group of Chattanooga Police officers are getting an long over-due payday thanks to a Hamilton County jury.

A  jury decided the city owes more than $560,000 in damages to 25 police officers on Thursday for never delivering on promised raises and failing to maintain conditions of fair employment.

The case was more than seven years in the making.
    
25 higher-ranked officers started noticing some of the recently-hired employees were making more money than their supervisors.
    
The lawsuit said the city wouldn't acknowledge their complaints so the officers had no choice but to go to court.

"These 25 men and women, they're all Sergeants, Lieutenants or Captains, a handful of them are retired from the department but the majority of them are still with the department," Stevie Phillips said.

Attorney Stevie Phillips said at the center of this case was a promise, made by the Chattanooga Police Department in 2010.
    
An agreement named "the 2010 pay plan" promised raises to sergeants, lieutenants and captains at the 3-year and 5-year marks. 
    
But as those anniversaries came and went, paychecks stayed the same.

"It certainly felt good to work on a case where we knew these men and women were asking for something they deserved and something they had already earned," Phillips said.

The lawsuit said because of a 2009 program called the Officer Career Development Program, officers who worked for five years were taking home the same paycheck as their 10-year supervising sergeants.

Many of those sergeants wanted to see that change.

"It was pretty upsetting for him, for the city to suggest that he might actually have to take a demotion to make the same amount of money he felt like he was already entitled to," Phillips said.

Then-police chief Bobby Dodd made the promise on raises but the city attorney's defense in the lawsuit was that Dodd never had the authority to make such a promise.  
    
But six years later, a jury decided the officers deserved a payout.

"Ultimately the jury took about three hours to deliberate, which we felt like was pretty quick considering," Phillips said.

The jury awarded more than half a million dollars be paid among the 25 officers. The back pay for each officer ranges from $11,000 to almost $60,000.

"It feels like these officers finally go their day in court, they finally got to tell the jury what happened to them," said attorney Janie Parks Varnell.

The Police Officer Development Program no longer exists at the Chattanooga Police Department and they're using an updated payment plan to avoid a situation like this from happening in the future.
    
The City Attorney's office said they'll now have to talk with city council to see how that money could be taken out of the this year's budget or if they will file an appeal.
 

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