SELMA, AL (WSFA) - Selma police officers say they've held off as long as they can out of love for their city but now, they're taking a stand when it comes to their paychecks.
Members of the force wrote an anonymous letter to city leaders asking for pay increases, and the city is working to meet their requests.
The letter, dated Aug. 5 and addressed to the Mayor of Selma, Selma City Council, Personnel Director, Treasurer, City Attorney and Police Chief John Brock, is a formal request for a "collaborative" and "mandatory" meeting. A stamp on a copy of the letter indicates it was received Aug 9.
"This is not a threat, nor do we want you to feel as if this is a threat," the officers wrote.
They go on to say: "There has been a lot of discussion as to what is 'in place' and what is 'in the process,' but what we are demanding at this point is action to be taken to raise our wages immediately."
It is signed, "SPD Officers."
It is unknown how many officers were involved in writing the letter.
Chief Brock says members of the department want to see less talking and more action from city government.
"The officers want a raise. They've been waiting, they've been put off for several years and it's time to put up or shut up," he said. "Since day one when I took this job, I said to the council that night that they had to give the officers a pay raise. They've got bonuses over these last several years but an actual pay raise they haven't had since 2007."
The officers acknowledge that they didn't get into policing for the money, but they would like to be compensated for their hard work and long hours.
"Several other cities of our capacity or smaller receive higher wages and we are simply concerned that the dire importance of public safety within the city is being overlooked and unappreciated in the eyes of some," they state in the letter.
The officers also give a timeline, asking to meet with the city council and other officials this week to discuss everything. Chief Brock said he planned to meet with officers on Monday afternoon and that the public safety committee chairman would also attend and will report back to the mayor and city council.
But that has since changed to fit into the officer's suggested timeframe.
On Wednesday night, a Selma Police Department spokesman confirmed that a meeting is now set for Thursday afternoon downtown with all parties involved.
"I support everything in this letter and 100 percent what they're trying to say. We tell them all the time that the council is going to do something and at some time, they're going to say that they've been hearing all of this for a while, do something," Chief Brock added.
Officials have stated in the past that officers' pay is not competitive for the department to retain members.
Mayor George Evans says public safety pay raises are a top priority of city government. Officials also want to phase in other city departments.
"It's not something that's been ignored. It's just a matter of trying to find all of the pieces to put it together to be able to find any money to do that," he said. "We all agree that our police officers and those in public safety and all of our departments deserve more money. It is my belief that the city council and mayor will work to get that done."
There's a pay plan study underway for all city workers to address what their salary should be based on their job description, years of service and education.
The city's budget is around $17 million and of that, $4 million goes to the police department, the mayor said.
"There will continue to be a discussion in terms of trying to find a way to give our police officers, as well as our other departments, a raise that we can sustain," Evans said. "It will be done. It's just a matter of a timeline in which we can make it happen."
A half cent sales tax passed several years ago was designed to go towards capital expenditures and pay increases for police and fire departments. The mayor says some of the revenue was used for cost of living raises given to all city employees over the past three years. He says funds were also used for capital projects and unexpected expenses, like the purchases of necessary equipment and repairs.
Some in the community voiced concerns about a possible strike in connection with the letter submitted by police officers, but officials calmed those fears.
"There are going to be officers protecting the city of Selma 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I promise you that. There will be police protection. Nothing is going to change," Chief Brock stressed.
The police officers went on to write that they do not feel other city departments or professions are less important. They say the purpose of their letter and the meeting is to "simply express concern" towards their wages as they continue to work to combat crime in the community.