October 13th, 2009 | by JAMES PITKIN News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Cops and Courts

Sick Leave Rules Rankle Portland Cops

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Seeking to crack down on possible sick leave abuse, the Portland Police Bureau recently "clarified" how officers should ask their bosses for sick days. The move has caused eye-rolling by some cops who see management taking a nanny-state approach.

A Sept. 14 memo (PDF) from precinct commanders reminds cops that "sick time reporting will be made in a personal conversation between the member and a supervisor." Many cops have been accustomed to simply leaving a message with their sergeant when they take a sick day.

The memo goes on to say when cops call in sick, their supervisor should ask a series of six questions, including the nature of the illness, the estimated time of absence, whether the absence is for the cop's illness or a dependent, whether the cop will see a doctor, and whether the illness or injury is work-related.

That friendly reminder from commanders followed an Aug. 27 memo (PDF) from Assistant Chief Brian Martinek. The memo says management "had an in-depth conversation regarding sick time abuse and the use of family medical leave" and reminds commanders to "educate your personnel" on when to use sick leave.

A recent draft report (PDF) from the chief's office notes wide discrepancies in the use of sick leave by different sets of employees.

Command officers (represented by the Portland Police Command Officers Association) use the least amount of their accrued sick leave: 26 percent. Line officers and sergeants (represented by the Portland Police Association) use significantly more: 65 percent. And civilian employees city-wide (the only statistics available) use even more: 84 percent.

Those statistics have rankled some patrol officers, who point out there are several reasons they use more sick time and family leave. Lower-ranking cops tend to be younger than commanders, so they're more likely to have to stay home and take care of children. They're also more likely to get sick or injured on the job, because they're out on patrol instead of sitting behind a desk.

One cop says management's focus on the statistics is "idiotic" because the explanation is so obvious.

"It's kind of like me wanting to know why more Marines get killed in Iraq than the Coast Guard," the officer says. "Why do football players get injured more than the band?"

The draft report from the chief's office notes that sick leave may be abused when employees call in sick at these times:

•In place of vacation days that were denied

•On days before or after vacation

•On "event nights"

•The day before or after the weekend

•When weather is "really good or really bad"
 
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