The previous months have been filled with fear, anxiety, frustration, anger and even relief. As you read this, my prayer is that the worst is behind us and that we have made substantial progress towards regaining our normal interactions and activities.
COVID-19 presented many challenges. The grind was constant, ensuring that custody assistants were provided all the avenues of protective equipment, health care and administrative options available from the Department.
We pushed to make sure the messaging was all-inclusive because there were numerous times it was not. Through it all, there were times of unity, reassurance and caring for our partners and their families waiting at home. As always, you represented yourselves with pride, toughness and professionalism.
Throughout this unprecedented firestorm, PPOA still made efforts to conduct regular business for our classification. Nevertheless, several scheduled meetings were postponed due to COVID-19.
The last CCWs meeting with the Department was genuinely productive, with discussions regarding potential policy. PPOA requested some changes in language that we felt were better for the membership. Those requests appeared well-received, and we now await a follow-up from County Counsel to schedule our next meeting.
Previously, I mentioned that PPOA reached an agreement with the Department to have the C/A position reviewed. The purpose of this was to document the duties regularly performed by custody assistants in comparison to sworn personnel in custody.
This review has been needed in order to deal with the way things have historically been viewed and to point out that what was established back then, is now a far cry from what is now a functional, independent, action-taking position.
I look forward to sitting down with the Department and going through the review’s content and navigating a path towards dealing with some of the fundamental concerns that you have voiced mightily throughout the years in meetings, emails, texts and phone calls.
We will proceed with calculated optimism, as we know nothing is accomplished with a wave of the hand or the wink of an eye. But there is also a belief that there are enough forward-thinking individuals on both sides of the table. Both sides are invested in this Department and both are looking for a return on that investment.
Hopefully, this opportunity allows us to exchange meaningful dialogue on how this position has evolved and how it is a stabilizing part of custody, our patrol stations and court lockup, as well as how it should be perceived, equipped, taken care of and utilized.
That is the reason why I took those issues public in a news conference on May 6. The event drew attention to the County’s financial concerns and its effects on first responders and public service workers. It was also an opportunity to provide our uniform the public forum to express what we’re dealing with during the pandemic. Information about this event was included in the Week in Review email PPOA members received on May 16.
May also featured National Correctional Officers Week. With that, I want to recognize Custody Assistant Class #1, who graduated on May 1, 1987.
The struggle they endured as the first group to walk the halls of a custody facility, facing harassment and dealing with an unsupportive environment from a group they were there to help is inconceivable.
On behalf of PPOA, thank you, Class #1. We carry on for better because you have already seen worse.
We also offer a well-deserved salute to Custody Assistant Robert Wagner, who battled COVID-19 through hospitalization. Two additional custody assistants, Christopher Lumpkin and Sonia Muñoz, have been given a clean bill of health and are back to work after recovering from the coronavirus. You can read an eye-opening Associated Press article about their ordeal on the PPOA “621Strong” Facebook page. Their recoveries are testimonies of the kind of people we are and the kind of partners we have.
In closing, I want to acknowledge you all for your strength and professionalism during what is an unimaginable event in our lives and careers. You’ve shown up and performed your duties admirably. My hope is that this obligation to duties does not become collateral damage in the wake of the coronavirus.
Thank you. As always, take care and be safe.