- Associated Press - Friday, October 30, 2015

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - What started out as a friendly competition between a husband and wife turned into a historic moment of sorts for the Birmingham Police Department.

On Thursday afternoon, veteran officers Charles Newfield and Rebecca Herrera were honored in a small ceremony at police headquarters. Surrounded by family, friends and co-workers, the couple officially received their sergeant’s stripes - together.

“This is the first time in our department’s history we have promoted a married couple at the exact same time to the exact same rank,” said Birmingham police Chief A.C. Roper. “They’ve done great work here. Everything starts with leadership and we have some amazing leaders in this department. They join that long line, and we’re proud of them.”

Roper earlier this month announced the promotions of a new deputy chief, four captains, four lieutenants and 19 sergeants. A ceremony was held Oct. 16 at Botanical Gardens, but Newfield and Herrera couldn’t be there. They had already planned and paid for a non-refundable family vacation before learning they were to be promoted, so they were excused from the larger ceremony.

The chief, however, wasn’t going to let them off the hook completely.

“Every now and then I have to pull my chief’s card, and I had to pull it for this ceremony because I had two brand-new sergeants basically telling me, ‘Chief, we don’t need a ceremony,’” Roper said. “I told them, ‘We’re not going to have you 30 years down the road not having a single picture of when you got promoted as a sergeant in this police department,’ so I pulled rank. I think they’re absolutely sharp.”

Newfield, whose father was a deputy chief in Birmingham, joined the force 19 years ago; Herrera joined 11 years ago. The two started dating in 2007 when they both worked at the city’s South Precinct. They married in 2011 and both have since served in other assignments. Herrera worked in narcotics and on the DEA task force; Newfield worked in the Tactical Unit, and in traffic accident reconstruction.

“The whole getting promoted thing started as a competition,” Herrera said. “We took the test to see who could score higher, and I just assumed he would because he had taken it before and he’s been a police officer longer.”

“She beat me pretty bad,” Newfield said.

Being husband and wife and co-workers has worked for them, they said. As new sergeants, Herrera is assigned to the East Precinct, while Newfield is assigned to the West Precinct. Both will work the 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. shift.

“You understand the late hours, you understand the on-call because we both came out of positions where we worked a lot,” Newfield said. “Law enforcement can put a lot on marriages because one spouse might not understand the needs and demands. With us, that’s what we do. We don’t have that conflict in our marriage.”

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