Ala. K-9 officers file suit, demand more pay for taking care of dogs at home

The officers receive no overtime or additional compensation for caring for the dogs on workdays and one hour of overtime on each weekend day, holiday


By Kent Faulk, John Sharp
al.com

MOBILE, Ala. — The City of Mobile’s three police K-9 officers have filed a federal lawsuit against the city demanding more pay for having to take care of the dogs after hours at their homes.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Mobile, seeks back pay with interest along with other damages, attorneys’ fees and asks that a judge declare the city’s policies and practices violate the officers’ rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

K9 Officer William Byrd (left) commands his police dog named Masco during a training exercise in Mobile, Ala. on Sept. 24, 2020. K9 Officer Justin Washam wears a bite sleeve for a bite demonstration.
K9 Officer William Byrd (left) commands his police dog named Masco during a training exercise in Mobile, Ala. on Sept. 24, 2020. K9 Officer Justin Washam wears a bite sleeve for a bite demonstration. (Ashley Remkus/aremkus)

When contacted by AL.com for a response Friday morning, City of Mobile spokesman Jason Johnson said “we don’t comment on litigation.”

Officers Patrick McKean, Joshua Evans, and William Byrd, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, are the only three employees assigned to the K-9 Unit, according to the lawsuit.

“As canine handlers, plaintiffs routinely come in early two to three days each week to execute search warrants as part of the SWAT Team, Narcotics Team, or with the United States Marshalls Fugitive Task Force,” the lawsuit states. “Plaintiffs are also on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week and have to have the dogs assigned to them ready to work on a moment’s notice. For this reason, the dogs live at each of the plaintiffs’ (officers’) residences, and the plaintiffs are responsible for their care and maintenance at all times.”

Mobile requires that all dogs assigned to the officers stay in a secure kennel at the officers’ homes “and that (the officers) be responsible for the dogs at all times,” the lawsuit states.

The city provides dog runs and doghouse attachments built at the officers’ homes, the lawsuit states. And at any given time, the officers will have one to three dogs assigned to their care each day.

All three canine officers receive no overtime or additional compensation for caring for the dogs on workdays and only one hour of overtime on each weekend day and holiday, the lawsuit states.

McKean, the leader of the unit, has requested pay increases for the K-9 officers since 2017. In his latest request on March 28 of this year, he said it would be “reasonable to compensate our canine handlers with a half hour of overtime for each workday and for off days. This would be 3.5 hours weekly and 14 hours a month.”

He also wrote that it would be in addition to two hours of overtime per month to the handler who work 10-hour shifts and would compensate for canine care on their workdays. Also, because of the “inherit risk of their position” in handling SWAT and explosive detection events, McKean requested a 10 percent hazard pay increase for the dog handlers.

McKean cited in his memo how other departments compensate K-9 officers. Those were: Saraland Police Department pays seven hours overtime every work week; Dothan pays 4 hours overtime every work week; Mobile Sheriff’s Office provides a 5% pay raise when transferred to the canine unit and one hour overtime for off days and holidays; and Birmingham canine officer receives eight hours of overtime for every work week and an additional two hours of overtime per work week when the canine handler is on call and those assigned to work with bomb disposal get a 5% raise for hazard pay.

McKean has worked as a police officer for the City of Mobile since March 1997, with a brief pause when he served in Iraq from December of 2008 to July 2009, according to court records. He has principally worked as a K-9 officer since 2003.

Byrd has worked as a police officer in Mobile since August of 2004. He was assigned in 2013 to the department’s K-9 Unit, according to the lawsuit.

Evans worked as a police officer for the City of Mobile from December of 2006 to 2013 and then 2014 through the present. He has worked in patrol, with the City’s Ranger Unit, and in narcotics. In 2017, Evans was assigned to the Police Department’s K-9 Unit.

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McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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