D.C. police officers who are pregnant or who perform administrative duties because of medical conditions will be forced to take leave from their jobs starting July 8, a policy change that some police personnel fear will throw many officers into financial chaos or force them to quit.
Police union officials say the policy change would affect hundreds of officers who are pregnant or who are doing desk assignments due to illness or injury resulting from off-duty activities. Those officers now will have to use their sick leave and annual leave, and -- when those run out -- go on leave without pay.
Gary Hankins, chairman of the labor committee of the Fraternal Order of Police, said D.C. Police Chief Isaac Fulwood Jr. sent him a letter informing him of the department's plan, and explaining that the department's action is due to budgetary constraints.
Lt. Reginald Smith, a spokesman for the police department, declined to comment this week, saying the new policy came from the mayor's office.
Hankins said he has notified Fulwood that the labor committee rejects the policy change, and said the union has retained a law firm to try to gain a temporary restraining order against the new policy.
"It is a cynical and unfeeling policy to do this to people," Hankins said. "There's no compassion in this policy."
Those who will be affected are on "limited duty," which allows officers who are pregnant, injured or ill to do administrative or office work when they're unable to work the streets. Only officers expected to return to full duty can use the benefit.
Without limited duty, many officers would have to go on sick leave, during which they couldn't work part-time jobs because department policy prohibits them from doing so. According to Hankins, the average officer has 19 annual leave days and 13 sick leave days a year.
D.C. Council member Betty Ann Kane (D-At Large) said she had written to Fulwood asking him to reconsider the policy change.
"I think it could be tremendous discrimination against the women police officers, and will deprive city of officers who can be kept working much longer, although they can't be on the street," Kane said this week.
Officer Alexandra Albright, a seven-year member of the department who is seven months pregnant, said she's "outraged and stunned" by the department's plan.
Albright, who works in the crime analysis office of the 3rd District, said she had planned to work until Sept. 6 -- her due date -- then return the first of next year. She said she had planned to use sick leave, annual leave and unpaid leave for the time off.
Now, Albright said, she'll be forced to return to work immediately after she has her child. She said she and her husband, an assistant director of security at the Washington Hilton, cannot afford for her to take leave without pay after the baby is born.
"I'll have to come back as soon as I can," Albright said. "It's quite maddening. I'm quite upset that I won't be able to be with my baby those first three months."
Cedric Simon, 34, was equally angry. Simon, who has been on the police force two years, recently received a heart transplant, and has been on limited duty at the 2nd District, where he does administrative work.
Last year, hundreds of officers donated sick leave and annual leave to Simon to enable him to stay on the payroll. He said that he still has a week of that annual leave, but when it runs out he'll have to go on leave without pay.
"I've got a family to support," said Simon, who has a wife and two sons, ages 10 and 15. "I'm very worried about it. I might as well be out of a job."