Lakeland police rally for contract with higher wages, better benefits

Bizar Male

LAKELAND — Dozens of Lakeland police officers took to the city’s streets on Monday afternoon not to ensure the peace and safety of a rally, but to hold one of their own. 

Off-duty officers and their family members lined the sides of East Orange Street outside City Hall on Monday afternoon bearing signs saying “Save your police department” and “City Manager neglects public safety.”   

There were no megaphones or loud chants, no disturbance of the peace. Individuals waved from the sidewalk as passing drivers honked in show support. Many carried Thin Blue Line flags that show support for law enforcement.

The officers hoped their rally would bring increased awareness to a growing rift between the Lakeland Police Department and City Hall. More arrived and moved inside the building, packing the City Commission chamber to standing room only.

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Lakeland police employees and supporters rally in front of City Hall in Lakeland on Monday in support of the police union's demand for better pay and benefits.

The police department’s unionized members — officers, sergeants and lieutenants — have been working without a contract since Sept. 31, 2019. Negotiations between the union and city officials have dragged on for more than two years with no clear end in sight. 

“We don’t feel they’ve been given the full story since Jan. 1, 2019,” said K-9 Officer Ryan Back, the Fraternal Order of Police president. 

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