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Gainesville Police officers fighting for better wages, city pushing back

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“Are we going to be appreciated by our employers? It’s a lot to have to ask our officers to deal with,” says Matt Geockel, spokesman for the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Gator Lodge 67.

Goeckel has been working at the Gainesville Police Department for 11 years, and says many workers have been underpaid, over worked, and feeling—undervalued.

“It’s stressful,” says Goeckel .

Every three years, FOP renegotiates its contract with the City of Gainesville, and now, they are in a contract impasse, again.

Goeckel says one of the issues is pay discrepancy, where starting officers are often making the same—if not more than those who have been there for years.

He says this has made morale so low that sergeants who’ve with the station for over 10 years, are now transferring elsewhere.

“Staffing is down, so there’s less officers on the street, which is going to mean we can’t be in as many places as usual,” says Goeckel. “Our response times are going to be longer, [that] frustrates the officers on the road because they are getting burnt out…and they don’t get a chance to take a breather,” says Goeckel.

To combat this, the union is proposing a step plan with a 2.8% increase every year, to be comparable to similar police departments in the state.

Under the plan, first-year officers would earn $42,987.57 a year, and 18-year officers would make $63,787.57.

But the city rejected that idea.

“The city is like ‘yeah we have this money in the bank, we can afford it, but we don’t want to’,” says Goeckel.

Currently, officers work 11 hours and 25 minutes four days a week with a four-day break.

However, the city is now proposing a work schedule that would fluctuate 8, 10 and even 12 hour days, with only a few weeks of notice.

Goeckel says that would make it extremely challenging on officers’ personal lives.

We reached to City Hall and while officials refused to go on camera, a spokesman said they are still negotiating and hope to eventually come to a consensus.

We also found an email from the city attorney, Nicolle Shalley, addressing the commissioners and mayor saying, “I strongly recommend that you neither read, nor respond to, any communications regarding this matter during the Insulated Period.”

“No one is looking to get rich, we are looking to get appreciated, and we are looking to make sure we are able to retain the quality officers that Gainesville has come to expect,” says Goeckel.

There are plans for a public meeting, and although it has yet to be scheduled, you can count on CBS 4 News to keep you posted on all the outcomes.

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