DECATUR, Ala. (WHNT) - In April, Decatur Police implemented a new sick leave policy in response to the force wanting to help one of their own. Officer Joshua Driggers was recovering from surgery to have a brain tumor removed. Due to his illness, he has been unable to work. So, his fellow officers have been voluntarily working his shifts so he can still get paid. Many of them have done it, including the police chief.
The new sick leave policy allowed them to donate their sick leave time to Driggers instead of having to work his shifts. Driggers had only 12.5 days of sick leave accrued, while some veteran officers had accrued as many as 2,000 hours of sick leave.
But officers found out last week that the department's new personnel director has elected not to extend the sick leave transfers for another six months, meaning Driggers will be dropped from departmental insurance. Driggers would have to be without insurance for six months before he could be eligible to draw social security benefits. He could carry on Decatur City insurance, but would have to cover the full amount out-of-pocket.
So the police chief came up with idea that could help Driggers' fellow officers continue to help his family; let the warm fuzzies commence. The chief is allowing his force to participate in 'No-shave November' to benefit the Driggers family.
"Policy states that officers can have mustaches, but that's it; and there are even very strict guidelines for that," explains Lt. John Crouch. "So for November, the chief has suspended our policy on facial hair and most of us are electing to grow beards. We are making a donation to the Driggers family to participate, and so far, almost every officer in the department is participating; even those who choose not to grow a beard are still making the donations."
As you can image with strict grooming policies, it's been quite a while since many of these officers have seen stubble when they look in the mirror.
"Yeah, it's been almost 14 years for me, so it's going to be interesting," said Detective Chance Sparks, saying his beard looks quite different from the last time he remembers seeing it.
"There's been a lot of participation and we hope to grow this even more, and hopefully, get some other police departments on board with us," said Sparks.
Just two days into the campaign, as Decatur officer began on Nov. 7, the department as a whole is already much more fuzzy than normally allowed.
"We kind of want the public to know what's going on, that it's not just a total disregard of our standards but it's just for the month of November and it's certainly for a good cause," Lt. Crouch reiterated.
We learned Officer Driggers' current treatment has been able to keep his cancerous tumor from growing. Crouch says any member of the public who wants to donate to the cause is welcome to do so and is encouraged to get in contact with or stop by to visit Decatur Police on Lee Street downtown.
The community is certainly on Officer Driggers' side. Crouch says just last week, a couple who wanted to remain anonymous walked into the station and dropped off 12 $100 prepaid American Express gift cards for the department to give to the Driggers. The City of Madison Police Department has also agreed to participate in the 'No-shave November' campaign to help offset medical costs for the Driggers family.