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Exceptions to the Rule

Maggie Gram,
New York Civil Liberties Union
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June 8, 2006

This just in from Breen Sullivan, the legal student fellow working on the Lochren case:

The third day of trial opened with Plaintiff Officer Patricia O’Brien recounting her frustration when faced with the choice of either remaining on active duty without the standard protections of a functional bulletproof vest and an accessible gun-belt, or the cessation of police work entirely when pregnant. Officer O’Brien, who is currently pregnant, modeled her vest for the court in a dramatic demonstration of exactly what areas are left exposed, including her stomach, and vital parts of her chest.

The SCPD maternity uniform, which limits the accessibility of pregnant officers’ gun-belts, was also mentioned in both Officer O’Brien and Officer Riera’s testimony. The fear and increased vulnerability experienced by Officer Riera when she attempted to remain on patrol in her second trimester with an unfamiliar gun belt and without a protective vest, ultimately directed her decision to choose safety over employment.

In other notable testimony, the plaintiffs identified SCPD Officers Carabas and Mannetta as examples of the department’s practice of making exceptions to the restrictive policy adopted in April of 2000. Both men suffered from a non-job related injury or condition, classified as ‘301’ by the department. Like the pregnant officers, Carabas and Mannetta were not to be accommodated by a ‘light’ or ‘limited’ duty assignment under the new policy. Today’s testimony seems to suggest, however, that Officers Carabas and Mannetta were in fact ‘grandfathered’ into the new system, essentially allowed to keep their previous jobs with immaterial alterations. This contrasts Plaintiff Officer Riera’s experience, who also had the ‘301’ condition previous to the policy’s adoption.

Finally, Officer James Piel, an investigator with the SCPD Internal Affairs department, testified that internal investigations spurred by the pending litigation did in fact reveal substantiated instances of policy violation by SC Officers following the adoption of the policy in question. At least two Officers were found by Piel to have been assigned to a ‘light’ or ‘limited’ position in response to a ‘301’ condition or injury, in direct violation of policy.”

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