Weapon restriction, overtime issues resolved for parole officers with union intervention
By DEBORAH A. MILES
The current PS&T Agreement has 50 Articles and dozens of Memorandum’s of Understanding which address a vast array of workplace procedures. Recently, a few PEF-represented parole officers (PO) found the agreement and PEF’s response to be of great value to right the wrongs of the decisions made by parole administrators.
One case involved four parole officers from the downstate area who were denied overtime pay.
“Management is required to give 14 days notice to change an employee work schedule, or what we call a flight plan, at the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) for the express purpose of reducing or preventing overtime,” said Division 236 Council Leader Victor (Tony) Perez.
After the circumstances were brought to the attention of the union, a dialogue occurred between DOCCS and PEF and the overtime issues were resolved.
Perez said an even bigger issue involved weapon restriction for three parole officers.
A weapon restriction means that a parole officer may carry a weapon on the job, but is not allowed to take it home. Instead the weapon must be dropped off and picked up at a correctional facility.
“For most of the people involved, this was an hour burden dropping off and picking up a weapon. It takes 10 hours out of a 37 ½ work week, and officers are expected to do the same work in less time,” Perez said.
“I received pleas for help from three officers who were all victims of circumstances or medical problems.”
One case involved a PO whose home was robbed while on vacation, and the gun was stolen. Perez said the officer was made to feel like the perpetrator, rather than the victim.
“The Office of Special Investigation (OSI) found the officer did nothing wrong and did not violate rules or regulations. Yet they put the officer on weapon restriction. Another incident involved an officer who fainted in a public restaurant. Someone called 911, and a police officer escorted the PO to an ambulance, and suggested taking the weapon to the 45th precinct as the PO was being taken to a hospital. The PO was separated from the weapon for one day, released from medical care, then retrieved the weapon. OSI did not find any violations or anything illegal, yet the PO was placed on weapon restriction,” Perez said.
The last incident involved a PO who was present at a shooting and was pushed in front of a moving vehicle. The PO suffered serious injuries, and when he returned to work, he was not allowed to bring his weapon home.
“I reached out to PEF President Wayne Spence, statewide labor-management chair for DOCCS Steve Drake, and staff in PEF’s Legal and Contract Administration Departments. We all worked together, pulled our resources. We got the results we wanted, and all the weapon restrictions were lifted,” Perez said. “The end result also demonstrated how PEF has established and maintained a positive, collaborative working relationship with DOCCS.”
His advice to members is, “Just because an administration says this is the way it is because we say so, if you are in doubt, take it to your union. Fight.”
PEF Downstate Director of Field Services Ricardo Cruz added, “Today our members face many challenges at the worksite. Members have rights guaranteed and protected by our union contract. These parole outcomes are evidence, that working together, we can address the challenges that members are facing one at a time.”