As you can see from our cover, this issue of Star & Shield is outlining issues and the work performed by PPOA related to the COVID-19 pandemic. While PPOA continues to provide the best support and communication possible to our members, the most rumored question reported back to the Board of Directors and delegates is from members asking, “What is PPOA doing during the COVID-19 crisis?” Here is the shortlist of efforts put forth by PPOA, on behalf of its members:
- Ensuring members’ health and safety
- Monitoring the direction provided to members by the Sheriff’s Department (LASD), District Attorney’s Bureau of Investigation (DABOI) and Department of Medical Examiner (ME)
- Continuing to assist members with health concerns, grievances, administrative investigations and payroll issues
- Advocating with other labor organizations to establish benefits and protections during this crisis
- Holding County agencies accountable for clear directions, communications and actions related to our members during the crisis
During the past two months, PPOA resources have been stretched thin trying to address the numerous health and safety concerns of you, our membership. Daily reviews of documentation from the County Emergency Operations Center, the Sheriff’s Department Operation Center and Custody Division Operations Center, and constant updates from the County Board of Supervisors and the governor’s office all factor into our response. Our first priority was to demand the employers (LASD, DABOI and ME) to provide appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) to our members, especially those in high-risk environments like jails, hospitals and public-facing assignments. These efforts continue today as the Department continues to experience difficulties in replenishing critical supplies to our members. Additionally, PPOA advocated early for the temperature taking of employees to discover possible COVID-19 cases, which was, over objections of LASD executives, later initiated by LASD Custody Division and is now being considered Department-wide.
Testing has been determined to be the key to success in “flattening the curve” of COVID-19, and PPOA has been intimately involved in the LASD process, with Board member Lieutenant Ryan Vienna acting as the team leader of the testing team. His leadership and communication have been instrumental in PPOA being able to vet and answer members’ questions and concerns.
As a result of the advocacy efforts of PPOA, with the assistance of other labor organizations, we were able to establish alternative quarantine and isolation locations for our members. Through these efforts, positive testing COVID-19 members have hotel rooms available to them should it become necessary to isolate away from their families.
It should be noted that we appreciate the efforts of LASD, DABOI and ME to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 by providing telework options to those whose duties have allowed for it, as well as administrative leave to those being quarantined for work-related exposures. There have been times, however, when PPOA was forced to hold various Department executives accountable for their actions/inactions related to the COVID-19 crisis. While most supervisors and managers have addressed their employees’ concerns in a professional and caring manner, some have had to be formally admonished all the way up to their Department head.
And through it all, PPOA continues to address day-to-day issues and concerns, such as representation at grievances and administrative investigations, and meeting and conferring on critical policy and Department changes. Believe me, this is no easy task with a Sheriff and BOS at war, and the always surprising edicts that are announced publicly, at least on a weekly basis, if not sometimes daily, with no advance or proactive discussions with PPOA. Our phones and emails explode on those days.
The next steps for PPOA include addressing the significant financial crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, looming like dark clouds on the horizon. Many conversations are currently occurring between the County, the departments, the Coalition of County Unions and other labor organizations. This economic issue is very fluid as of this article with many unknowns, including how much federal reimbursement, if any, the County will recover for this fiscal year and the projected budget effects for fiscal year 2020–21. Of this much, I can be sure, the fiscal solvency of the County is of great concern.
As the reopening of our communities begins, please continue to practice good habits that you have learned during this pandemic. We say it all the time related to officer safety: complacency kills. The same is true here. Please do your part to keep yourself, your families and communities safe and help all of us avoid any type of resurgence of COVID-19, which would damage the efforts already exerted.
Thank you for being a member of the PPOA family, and as always, if you need assistance or support, we are just a phone call or email away.