APD 'Happy' video contrasts with police gripes

ATLANTA -- Atlanta Police released the video a week ago. Produced by the department, it shows its officers and staff, its police chief and even one of its mounted patrol horses dancing to a wildly popular hit song called "Happy." If the video has a message, it is unmistakably upbeat -- suggesting that APD is a happy place filled with happy employees.

"I am happy to be a police officer and I'm happy I chose this profession," said Lt. Steve Zigaj, who nonetheless suggests that "happy" is a word that oversimplifies.

Go behind the video -- and into the city council chambers -- and a story emerges that contrasts sharply with the upbeat, light-on-its feet police video.

"I've got about forty subordinates that I supervise," said Lt. Rick Mason, who supervises the APD narcotics unit. He spoke to the Atlanta city council Monday. "Of those forty, zero participated in the 'Happy' video. Nothing to do with me. They're just not happy."

Across America, local police officers are notorious for squawking about their salaries and working conditions. In Atlanta, the complaint surrounds the financial hits they've taken to pay more for health care and pension reform. Plus, they say, there have been salary promises that haven't been met.

"I should be making in excess of $81,000 a year. I make $68,000," Mason told city council members. Police union reps say recruiters tell young officers about salary steps they'll get as they advance in rank. Those promises rarely materialize, they say.

Lt. Mason is not seen dancing in the Happy video. Neither is Lt. Zigaj. "We're in it for the city of Atlanta, for the taxpayers to ensure their safety," Zigaj said. "I am unhappy with the process of not getting paid."

Which makes the Atlanta Police "Happy" video problematic for some Atlanta police officers. Its upbeat message is only a part of the story -- one that's at odds with another version of the story regularly told in city hall.


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