GARDEN CITY, Mo. -- About one week after the entire Garden City Police Department was laid off, its seven former officers enjoyed a holiday meal together before they go their separate ways.
"The outpouring of support from the community has been amazing," Garden City Police Chief Thomas Alber said.
Like a giant hug, the Garden City community embraced its former police officers who were laid off Nov. 14. On Tuesday, the seven officers, their families and members of the community gathered at the Training Center Christian School for an early Thanksgiving dinner.
"I wish it wouldn’t have happened right before the holidays, for sure," said Dennis Kleyh Jr., a former Garden City officer. "Last summer would have been great, after the first of the year would have been great. That’s kind of where my head is at."
Kleyh had been with the department since 2012.
“I loved it. These were great guys. It was a great opportunity," he said. "I came back here from other agencies that were bigger, did all sorts of things. I came back because these guys, they were good, solid people and I enjoyed working with them. I knew they had my back, and I had their back. And if something went crazy on the street, I knew they would come help. And that is all you can ask for in a department."
With all of the officers gone, the Garden City police force was totally decimated Monday when Alber was suspended without pay indefinitely. The Garden City police chief wasn't given a reason, but Alber said he suspects it was because he's been vocal about his displeasure with the layoffs.
"I was kind of shocked about it when it happened, but it is a small town. What are you going to do?" Kleyh said.
Brad Wright, a former Garden City officer, left the department four years ago, and he said he left a little piece of his heart behind.
"Not only are they police officers that I know, but I am still a police officer in another area, and we are all brothers and sisters," he said Tuesday. "So I came to support them. I feel really bad for what happened. I think it's kind of a raw deal."
The police issue has exploded into a major controversy for Garden City residents. Without warning or public input, the decision was made during a closed session of city council.
For the past week, FOX4 has tried several times to speak with Mayor Daniel Cantrell and get answers for concerned residents. But City Hall is locked up, and the mayor is no where to be found.
On Facebook, Cantrell blamed city budget issues for the layoffs.
In the meantime, Alber said Tuesday night's gathering was a sad one but not the last.
"I am sure we will get together," he said. "We have been together for a long time and have become good friends, so I am sure we will continue to get together and visit."
Something else that will help Garden City's former officers? Each of them got to take home a turkey and other food for Thanksgiving. The Training Center Christian School's pastor also said he'll make sure all of their children have presents and food on the table for those who don't find new work before the holidays.