A lot of small towns don’t have precisely large police departments. My father was a chief of police for a department that, after a while, was pretty much just him, so I’ve seen it sort of up close and personal. Frankly, I suspect anyone with ties to a small town has.
Sometimes, a city will allow their department to dwindle to almost nothing as the cash-strapped community opts not to fill vacancies. What you don’t often see is the city deciding to fire their entire department, especially in a hinky manner as one Missouri town did.
The last police officer in the tiny Cass County town of Garden City was fired Monday as he arrived at the office.
“I was met by the mayor, a sheriff’s deputy and an alderman and handed termination papers,” said 50-year-old Tom Albers, an 18 year veteran of the department.
The letter simply said “The City of Garden City Board of Alderman held an Emergency Executive Closed Session Meeting on November 15, 2018. Your employment with the City is hereby suspended without pay indefinitely.”
November 15th was Thursday, the day after the city laid off the other seven members of the department. Albers said he was told at the time that he was being kept on as a one-man department. In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Garden City Mayor Daniel Cantrell said it was Albers job “to continue to police our City.” However, it is now clear the city decided to fire Albers last week and tell him about it Monday.
Perhaps the worst part is that the city is claiming that the officers won’t be entitled to unemployment benefits.
Albers said his former officers were all told they would be eligible for unemployment benefits. He said he is unsure if being “suspended indefinitely without pay” will allow him to collect unemployment.
Law enforcement in the city will now be handled by the Sheriff’s Department, at the cost of $45 per hour per deputy to cover the community. It makes you wonder how much it cost to have their department on a per hour basis.
Albers argues that the new arrangement will increase response times, which it may well do.
As for the unemployment question, my take is, never trust the employer when they say you aren’t entitled to unemployment. They rarely have your best interests at heart when they tell you that. Instead, they need to take it to a third party and let them evaluate whether or not they’re entitled or not.
I’m not going to lie, something about this whole mess stinks to high heavens.
It’s not just that they fired the entire department, but that they did it so abruptly with no severance package, no drawdown, and are trying to deny anyone any compensation following that termination. Couple that with telling the police chief that he still has a job, only to change tune later and something doesn’t sound quite right.
There’s probably a lot more to this story than what we’re hearing, but I’m kind of glad I’m not in Garden City, Missouri right about now.