Tompkinsville residents concerned about safety after 7 officers declare resignation
13 News has learned from a former officer that 3 of the 7 officers who were considering staying with the police department part-time have now announced that they're fully resigning.
Tompkinsville is a small city with a population of around 3,000 people.
It's also the county seat of Monroe County.
It's a city just like yours and mine, but after a commission meeting on Monday tensions were high when the public learned there may soon be less police patrolling the streets after 7 officers announced they were resigning.
The mayor of Tompkinsville Scotty Turner says it isn't due to a lack of funding and some officers were simply seeking better opportunities.
"There's no benefit change, there's no cut in their pay or anything like that. It was just that they choose, you know I've always said if you want to get a better job and everything it would be better for your family," said Turner. "Actually you know it was just kind of coincidental that all of them happened at one time I think."
Turner also says its due to legislative changes regarding retirement benefits.
"If you were hired after a certain date, I think state legislature passed in July 1st, 2013 you would go into a different tier if you were hired before that date. Pretty much all of our officers fell into that second tier and it affected their insurance and stuff once they retired," said Turner.
Before the special meeting on Monday went into closed session a Tompkinsville Police Dispatcher, Gabbi Hagan, read an extensive proclamation about her thoughts on where the department is heading.
In her address to the commission she stated, "You've lost 7 officers and a dispatcher since your personnel meeting, and the night is still young. Our department now only has 3 certified officers and 1 officer in training left to protect and serve this city. That's 4 officers to cover shifts 24/7."
She continued to say:
"What happens if, God forbid, something happens to one of our guys, and I can't get a hold of anyone who is off duty to send to them?"
Mayor Turner said the city would still get police coverage and would call on the Kentucky State Police Post out of Columbia if need be.
Gabbi Hagan's full address to the city commission:
For those of you that don’t know me, my name is Gabbi Hagan. I’m a dispatcher at the Tompkinsville Police Department. I am not a public speaker, usually I am behind the mic, so I wrote down what I wanted to say instead.
I mean no disrespect when I say this, but everyone on this board works regular jobs. Day shift. 5 days a week. Regular hours. Holidays off. Profit-oriented. The “work is work, home is home” kind of jobs, which is great. All of the city employees, typically, fall into that category, with the exception of those at the PD, which is the reason I’m standing in front of you. I just want take a few moments to try to get you to understand that, regardless of the financial situation the city is in, there is nothing typical about the job of our officers, and you can’t treat it the same as the other departments of the city, because in doing so, you compromise officer safety. These guys are truly my brothers, and they deserve someone to defend them as fiercely as they defend this city. Chief Denhard and Chief Cain have worked incredibly hard to make officer safety the top priority. Two officers on per shift. Take home cars. Necessary overtime to make sure an officer ALWAYS has back up. Decent pay to make sure that they can recruit competent and qualified additions to our team. All of it has a purpose. They aren’t luxuries that the guys are trying to take advantage of; they are necessities to give our guys the best chance of making it home to their families after every shift.
Here are some stats for you: there were 55 felonious officer deaths in 2018, meaning they were maliciously killed while trying to do their job. These occurred during foot pursuits, traffic stops, interacting with wanted people, domestic disputes, and even simple disturbance calls, to name a few. These are calls our officers respond to every single day. Over half of those deaths were in southern states. Kentucky had 6 LOD deaths alone last year. 51 of those 55 police officers were shot (and that was prior to KY’s new “anyone can carry” law.) This is the south, where everyone has a gun.
Yes, they may have ballistic-resistant vests, but they are still not bulletproof. Those vests cover the torso, which is only 36% of the body’s surface area, leaving 64% of the body exposed. Did you know that if an artery is hit, it takes approximately 2-5 minutes for someone to bleed out? Moreover, did you know that there are approximately 20 major arteries in the body and that only 4 of those are covered by a vest, leaving 16 exposed. When there are 2 officers on duty, the response time for emergency backup, in my experience, is under a minute. That’s fast enough to do something about it. If no one else is on duty, that officer has no chance. That’s the situation YOU are putting our guys in, as if the job isn’t dangerous enough itself. You can’t keep the bad guys from shooting, but you can make sure that our officers have the personnel and resources to respond when it does.
To the mayor and the commissioners, excluding Commissioner Cain, because I know as the mother of an officer, she is not supporting these decisions that are being made: the ones of you that are stripping these things away from our guys are crippling this department. You’ve lost 7 officers and a dispatcher since your personnel meeting, and the night is still young. Our department now only has 3 certified officers and 1 officer in training left to protect and serve this city. That’s 4 officers to cover shifts 24/7. 4 officers, which inevitably means only one officer on a shift. You told an already understaffed department that you weren’t going to hire anymore officers, but you don’t want anyone to have overtime. You want the city patrolled and drunk drivers off the roads, but our fuel bills are a problem. You want big drug busts to take place and drugs taken off the streets, but you expect our guys to approach these people and circumstances with no backup. You all, as well as the rest of the city of Tompkinsville, want the fastest possible response times to your emergencies, as well as all the resources available to you, but their take home car privilege is being threatened. You want them to run toward the danger and risk their lives to protect yours, but you’ve taken away their hazardous duty retirement. What happens when you need an officer and the one on duty is tied up with another call? What happens if, God forbid, something happens to one of our guys, and I can’t get a hold of anyone who is off duty to send to them? That 2-5 minutes passes extremely fast. I’ll know that I did everything I could to get them aid, but if they don’t make it home because they were alone, that’s on you. You can be the one to tell their wives and kids and parents that their officer isn’t coming home because you thought you could save a dime, at the expense of their safety. They’ve done all you’ve asked up to this point, but they are done, and I can’t blame them at all. 7 officers have put in their resignation, and it all could be avoided if you would simply make their safety a priority.
To close, I’ll leave you with this quote: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” These guys are already running toward the danger, toward all the situations that other people run away from. They face the evil in the world head on. Please, don’t make them do it alone. We had 11 guys. Now we have 4. I would die for any of them, just like they would die for you. They know the risks that come with the job. These guys are sons, husbands, fathers, brothers, uncles, and friends to people who love them and need them to come home after their shift. None of them are here for the money; they all have another at least one other part-time job. I know none of you would ask your child to go into these situations alone. Please don’t ask my guys to do it either. I’ve had to be on the other side of the mic at other departments when an officer desperately called for backup, and there was no one to send. It is the most gut-wrenching, most helpless feeling in the world. Thankfully, I’ve never had to be in that position at the TPD, because our chiefs make sure no officer is alone. 24/7/365. Now, though, that’s a very real possibility. Sacrifice and make cuts wherever you can, but please do not let the means of officer safety be one of those places. You can fire me after this if you want, but this city needs to know that what is happening is not a reflection of Chief Denhard, Chief Cain, or our department. It’s a reflection of you all, and you are the only ones that can make it any better.