NOPD Update on the use of Civil Leave and COVID-19 11-Apr-2020

On April 1, 2020, I posted here on Signal108 about the use of Civil Leave as it relates to NOPD Special Order 6-2020. The point was to give a little clarity after speaking to Chiefs Goodly and Noel. However, it was with other items. So, I thought it would be useful to clarify again.

If any NOPD employee is ordered to go home and/or stay home because of COVID-19, then that employee should be eligible to use Civil Leave during the period he/she was ordered to be away from work.

If an employee is carried sick or annual for time that employee was ordered to be away from work, then that employee should send a 105 through the chain of command to Superintendent Ferguson requesting the use of Civil Leave for that time.

For example:

Example 1

Officer John Doe, assigned to the First District, is ordered to go home and undergo COVID-19 testing by Sgt. Platoon Supervisor on April 3, 2020 for some reason related to COVID-19 concerns. On April 8, 2020, Officer Doe is notified that his test results are negative for COVID-19. Officer Doe notifies Sgt. Supervisor of the negative test results. Sgt. Supervisor tells Officer Doe to return to work on April 9, 2020.

In the above example, Officer Doe should be eligible to use Civil Leave for the time starting April 3, 2020 through April 8, 2020. If Officer Doe is carried sick or annual for April 3-8, then he should send a 105, through the chain of command, to Superintendent Ferguson requesting the use of Civil Leave. The 105 would read something like this:

Civil Leave 105 Example

TO: Superintendent Shaun Ferguson
FROM: SPO John Doe, 1st District
SUBJECT: Request for Civil Leave

Dear Supt. Ferguson:

On April 3, 2020, I was sent home to undergo COVID-19 testing by Sgt. Platoon Supervisor because <insert COVID-19 reason – i.e. I was experiencing symptoms; I had a temperature; or supervisor believed I was exhibiting symptoms>. Sgt. Supervisor ordered me to stay home pending receipt of those test results. On April 8, 2020, I received the COVID-19 test results which were negative. I immediately notified Sgt. Supervisor of the negative test results and he instructed me to return to work on April 9, 2020.

In light of the foregoing, I am requesting that I be carried Civil Leave in ADP for the time beginning on April 3, 2020 and ending in April 8, 2020.

Sincerely,
SPO John Doe

APPROVED/DISAPPROVED
Sgt. Platoon Supervisor
APPROVED/DISAPPROVED
Lt. Platoon Commander
APPROVED/DISAPPROVED
Capt. Lejon Roberts, 1st District Commander
APPROVED/DISAPPROVED
Chief Deputy Superintendent Paul Noel, Operations Bureau
APPROVED/DISAPPROVED
Superintendent Shaun Ferguson

Example 2

Officer John Doe, assigned to the 1st District, is ordered to go home and to undergo COVID-19 testing because he is not feeling well on April 3. On April 8, Officer Doe is informed that his COVID-19 test was negative. However, Officer Doe is still feeling poorly. Officer Doe consults with his primary physician on April 8 and is diagnosed with something other than COVID-19. Officer Doe notifies his supervisor of the negative test results, Officer Doe also notifies his supervisor that while he was negative to COVID-19, his primary care physician has told him to stay home while he did not feel well.

In Example 2, Officer Doe will likely be carried sick leave for the whole time. Officer Doe should make sure to submit form 50’s as need be. If Officer Doe feels like there is a reason he should be carried Civil Leave, then he can submit the 105 requesting Civil Leave.

Example 3

Officer John Doe, assigned to the First District, is ordered to go home and undergo COVID-19 testing by Sgt. Platoon Supervisor on April 3, 2020. On April 8, 2020, Officer Doe is notified that his test results are positive for COVID-19. Officer Doe notifies Sgt. Supervisor of the positive test results. Sgt. Supervisor tells Officer Doe to remain out of work until he is cleared to return.

In the above example, Officer Doe should be eligible to use Civil Leave for the time starting April 3, 2020 through the time he is cleared to return. If Officer Doe is carried sick or annual for this timeframe, then he should send a 105, through the chain of command, to Superintendent Ferguson requesting the use of Civil Leave.

NFOP President Makes Big Announcement About Federal PSOB

On April 9, National Fraternal Order of Police (“NFOP”) President Pat Yoes, former Louisiana FOP (“LAFOP”) President, announced changes to the federal Public Safety Officers’ Benefit (“PSOB”) program as it relates to COVID-19 deaths.

If you are not familiar with the federal PSOB program, it is administered by the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance. Click here for more information on PSOB. The PSOB program pays a benefit of $365,670 to the family of a law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty. PSOB also pays up to $1,248/month for education expenses for the children of an officer killed in the line of duty. Click here for more information on the PSOB benefit, which changes every year. Click here for the PSOB Fact Sheet.

The PSOB includes deaths caused by “infections diseases” already, but establishing that an officer died from an infectious disease contracted in the line of duty can be difficult. In light of the current circumstances as it relates to the SARS-CoV-2 virus and COVID-19, the resulting illness, the Department of Justice published new guidance regarding PSOB benefits.

In general, BJA will find that the evidence shows a public safety officer with COVID-19 contracted it in the line of duty, when (1) the officer had engaged in line of duty action or activity under circumstances that indicate that it was medically possible that the officer was exposed to the virus, SARS-CoV-2, while so engaged; and (2) the officer did contract the disease, COVID-19, within a time-frame where it was medically possible to contract the disease from that exposure. In addition, in the absence of evidence showing a different cause of death, BJA generally will find that the evidence shows a public safety officer who died while suffering from COVID-19 died as a direct and proximate result of COVID-19.

Of course, we would prefer that everyone is able to make it home from work at the end of every shift safely. Unfortunately, with deaths piling up across the United States, we know that is not reasonable. Some law enforcement officers have already been killed by COVID-19.

The guidance from the Department of Justice as it relates to PSOB benefits essentially makes the families of law enforcement officers who die from COVID-19 presumptively eligible for PSOB benefits as long as it is not medically impossible that the officer contracted COVID-19 in the line of duty.

Merely coming into contact with members of the public or co-workers makes it medically possible an officer is exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Hopefully, at some point soon, we will have a vaccine for this virus. Until then, every additional close interaction with another human being carries with it an increased risk of being exposed to the virus. The DOJ recognizes this in the 1st part of its guidance.

Additionally, it looks like symptoms of COVID-19 can begin as far out as 14-21 days from exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Furthermore, once someone develops symptoms, those symptoms could last for 14-21 days (or longer). The DOJ recognizes this in the 2nd part of its guidance.

Finally, the DOJ recognizes that if an officer was suffering from COVID-19 at the time of the officer’s death, it is most likely the death was caused by COVID-19 unless there is evidence of a different cause of death.

In short, the DOJ’s guidance to BJA is that as long as it is not medically impossible for an officer to have been infected by the SARS-CoV-2 virus and to have contracted COVID-19 as a result of “line of duty action or activity,” then BJA is going to assume that officer’s death to be eligible for PSOB benefits.

While this does not make reporting to work any safer, maybe it can provide law enforcement officers will a little sense of security that their families will receive the PSOB should they make the greatest sacrifice while protecting the public during this coronavirus pandemic. Many thanks to our hometown President, Pat Yoes. Furthermore, thanks to Attorney General Barr and President Trump for their support of law enforcement during this unique time in our history.

The Fraternal Order of Police is the world’s largest organization of sworn law enforcement officers, with more than 330,000 members in more than 2,200 lodges. We are the voice of those who dedicate their lives to protecting and serving our communities. We are committed to improving the working conditions of law enforcement officers and the safety of those we serve through education, legislation, information, community involvement, and employee representation. No one knows the dangers and the difficulties faced by today’s police officers better than another officer, and no one knows police officers better than the FOP.

NFOP President Pat Yoes is a Captain for the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office.

The Louisiana Fraternal Order of Police, led by President Darrell Basco, has over 6,000 members statewide. The Crescent City Lodge, with President Walter Powers, Jr., has about 2,000 of those members in Louisiana. About 1,100 of those 2,000 members are active members of the New Orleans Police Department. The remainder of Crescent City Lodge members is mostly retired members of the New Orleans Police Department. The Crescent City Lodge represents about 90% of active NOPD officers from Recruits to the Superintendent of Police.

Note: While it is ultimately up to the deceased officer’s agency to submit the PSOB application, the Fraternal Order of Police has assisted agencies with applications for PSOB benefits on numerous occasions.

Donovan Livaccari,
General Counsel
Louisiana FOP

Safer at Home Video from LSU NCBRT

Below is a new video from the National Center for Biomedical Research and Training at L.S.U. The video provides some tips for people who work on the frontlines of the pandemic on how to make home a little safer for their families.

A Good Time to Prepare

www.nola.com/entertainment_life/home_garden/article_a3a19316-77c1-11ea-920c-7f8ea57235d3.html

I was reading the above article and thought this could be a good opportunity to remind members of the FOP Crescent City Lodge that the Crescent City Lodge provides its members with 4 hours of legal services for any family law needs and 2 hours of legal services for anything else. I can usually get a Last Will and Testament and/or a Living Will done for Crescent City Lodge members with no out of pocket expense.

Also, the NOPD continues to conduct internal investigations. I have been working with officers throughout this current situation. The FOP’s Legal Plan will continue to provide legal services as usual. Feel free to call about statements, whether you are the accused officer or not, extension hearings, or any other questions you may have about disciplinary investigations.

Donovan

NOPD Only – Supplies Poll

In an effort to gauge the supplies needed by members of FOP Crescent City Lodge #2, I would appreciate it if NOPD personnel could answer the following non-scientific poll questions. Please share with NOPD personnel and encourage NOPD personnel to answer the 3 poll questions.

NOPD Update 4-5-2020

I have been working with Porchjam Distillation on behalf of the Crescent City Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police. Porchjam was very excited about helping NOPD officers on the front line during the COVID-19 pandemic. I really appreciate their help.

Picking up hand sanitizer for the FOP Crescent City Lodge

On Monday, April 6, I will he distributing 20 1-gallon bottles of hand sanitizer to each of the 8 District stations, SOD, and Headquarters.

Pochjam Distilleries personnel load up hand sanitizer

Officers are welcome to use these 1-gallon bottles to refill the bottles they are currently using. If you do not have a bottle, I would recommend looking around for a spray bottle you can repurpose for hand sanitizer. The hand sanitizer is watery and more suitable for a spray bottle than a squeeze bottle.

Hand sanitizer

The hand sanitizer is 80% alcohol and will do the job of sanitizing well. Hand hygiene is one of the most important aspects of staying well.

So, again, the FOP will be delivering 20 1-gallon bottles of hand sanitizer to each of the 8 District stations, SOD, and HQ on Monday, April 6. We will deliver more 1-gallon bottles later in the week.

Thanks, again, to Porchjam Distillation and Gordon Stewart, the founder of Porchjam Distillation.

Note: In case you did not see it, I was advised at the end of last week that the hand sanitizer in the floor of the Smoothie King Center was NOT available for individual officers use.

Update 4-6-2020: Jim Gallagher, Walter Powers, and I made deliveries of hand sanitizer today. Once we are able to get a feel for how we can best serve our members, and we will be in a better position to evaluate what we can do moving forward. Once again, thanks to Porchjam Distillation for their help with the hand sanitizer.

COVID-19 Roll Call Training from LSU NCBRT Academy of Counter-Terrorist Education

The below video was received from the LSU NCBRT Academy of Counter-Terrorist

Education. It is intended for use as roll call training for law enforcement relative to COVID-19.

Arrests and Summonses – NOPD and the SARS-CoV-2 Virus 4-3-2020

Since the lockdowns have begun in New Orleans and Louisiana in response to the novel coronavirus, reporters have asked me about changes to the New Orleans Police Department’s arrest policy. I have been asked about this as recently as yesterday (4-2-2020) in a conversation with Matt Sledge in his preparation for writing this article for NOLA.COM/The Advocate.

While I was not quoted in Matt’s article, I was quoted in an article by The Lens on March 25 and an article for the Washington Post on March 31. The Washington Post article was titled “New Orleans police are jailing people for minor offenses even as the city becomes a covid-19 hotspot.”

Since the message appears to be fluid, I wanted to take this opportunity to clarify my position in this regard.

First and foremost, trying to make an inherently dangerous profession as safe as possible is one of the FOP’s primary missions. For the Crescent City Lodge, that means trying to make working at the New Orleans Police Department as safe as possible. In light of the current threat posed by the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the resulting COVID-19 illness, that means limiting close interactions with other human beings as much as possible.

We are all making sacrifices by limiting our contact with other human beings in an effort to reduce the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. For law enforcement officers, that means limiting close contact with colleagues and members of the public, as much as possible. Sometimes it is not possible. Sometimes, law enforcement officers have to act.

Early on, the NOPD moved fairly swiftly to reduce the number of reports that had to be made in person to an officer by transferring some of that reporting responsibility to the Alternative Police Reporting Unit, which takes reports over the telephone. Subsequently, the NOPD has made it so all reports of property crimes that do not involve an arrest are taken over the telephone.

Specifically, as it relates to arrests, I have been asked numerous times about my thoughts on the NOPD’s arrest policy in light of the current threat.

As I stated above, social distancing would require us to limit our close interactions with other human beings as much as possible and arrests are not socially distant events. Therefore, officers should exercise their discretion to issue a summons in lieu of arrest based on guidance from the NOPD administration, the requirements of LaCCrP Art. 211, and the officer’s observations. As Jim Pasco, the executive director of the National Fraternal Order of Police, was quoted in the Washington Post article, sometimes what looks like an arrest for a minor offense is nothing of the sort.

I explained to every reporter that asked me about the NOPD’s arrest policy that I have been in regular contact with Assistant Chief Superintendent Paul Noel and it is my understanding that the guidance being provided to officers is to issue summons whenever it is possible to do so. Sometimes it is not possible to do so – even for minor offenses. However, as Superintendent Ferguson pointed out in Matt Sledge’s article, arrests are down 59% in the last 2 weeks of March versus the same time period from last year.

I do not believe for a second that NOPD officers are being pushed to make arrests. I believe that Superintendent Ferguson’s comments in today’s article by Matt Sledge for NOLA.COM/The Advocate represent a well-reasoned approach to the topic. I am also confident that NOPD supervisors are giving NOPD officers reasonable guidance on arrests in light of the circumstances based on my numerous conversations with Chief Noel.

I have told every reporter who has asked that I think it is important for the NOPD to use summonses when it is appropriate to do so. Furthermore, I believe NOPD officers are doing so.