by Martha Smith
An awards ceremony took place at the last Scottsboro City Council meeting held on Monday, February 24, 2020. The Life Saving Awards were presented to Scottsboro Jackson County Rescue Squad’s Robert Shook, Scottsboro Police Department’s Sergeant Brian Eakin and Scottsboro Fire Department’s Lieutenant Landon Baker. The night of the boat dock fire on January 27, 2020 at Jackson County Park Marina, Shook and Eakin deployed a boat and were able to pull seven victims from the frigid water and deliver them to the awaiting medical personnel. They also towed in boats that were on fire to the shore. The heat was so intense the cushions on their boat were melted. Later, after spotting an eighth victim in the water, SFD’s Baker tied a rope around himself and entered the water to tow them back to shore. All eight victims saved that night were treated for hypothermia, and they survived because of the actions of these three responders. The water was a reported 53 degrees, and the air temperature was recorded at 39 degrees. The typical human being will begin to succumb to the lethargic effects of hypothermia within 15 minutes in water temperatures that low.
Uniformed officers were present en masse for the ceremony and for the presentation of an official letter from the local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, Hi-Jackson Lodge #35 President Scott Whited, read by Council member Richard Bailey.
The letter highlighted the rising hostility toward law enforcement officers and cited alarming statistics from the past decades and past year, detailing how brazen attacks on police officers have become commonplace. “In 2019, 134 law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty. According to the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) statistics, between the years of 1980 and 2018, 85 officers per year on average were killed feloniously in the line of duty. That means 85 officers per year killed intentionally by a member of the public which we serve and protect daily. These alarming trends bode ill for law enforcement officers, but they speak volumes about the brave men and women who are still willing to wear a shield or star or carry a weapon to serve and protect the very cities and counties in which they live.”
The average hourly full-time pay at Wal Mart is $14.26. The average starting pay at Target is $12 per hour with the goal of reaching a starting pay of $15 per hour by the end of this year. The starting pay for a Scottsboro Law Enforcement Officer is $13.83 an hour.
The letter continued, “A local plant here in Scottsboro is advertising their starting rates on a sign hanging on their property fence. The pay is staggered by shift, with the lowest hourly wage being 1st shift. It starts at $13.92 an hour. Less money, with much greater risk. There is no other profession in the civilian world which requires an individual to wear a firearm and body armor on a daily basis and put his life on the line for his fellow man. No other profession where one has to so closely guard one’s personal life and thoughts. No other profession where one fears for the safety of his family from retaliation by those they arrest and prosecute. Is it any question that our own police departments should be paid a decent, livable wage? And we are not discussing an increase in benefits, but the necessity of an increase in pay. Benefits are great, but no one has ever put groceries on the table with benefits. The Scottsboro Police Department is a fine department of professional officers who respond above and beyond the call of duty on a daily basis. They represent the City of Scottsboro well. They deserve to be paid accordingly.”
In the letter, Whited then points out that if the national minimum wage were raised to $15 per hour, the city would still have to raise the starting hourly pay of a Scottsboro Law Enforcement Officer by $1.17 to meet the base starting rate of pay by national standards.
“We, Hi-Jackson Lodge #35 of Jackson County Alabama, stand in support of Councilman Richard Bailey’s plan to adjust the salary scale of the Scottsboro Police Department. We believe that a pay increase for the Scottsboro Police Department is integral to increase interest for new hires and to promote retention for senior officers.”
After reading, Bailey stated, “The letter means a lot to all of us, and I’ve talked to everybody up here, and I want you to know it is an ongoing thing. I talked with the Mayor, and we know it’s wrong. We know it’s too low, and something has to be done. Bear with us as we work through this, but know the talks have begun.”