Under pressure from union officials over a bevy of personnel policies — ranging from a ban on tattoos to limitations on when pregnant officers can take federal maternity leave — United States Capitol Police officials have agreed to put off their effective date until the middle of August.
The new rules, which critics said were forced through in the waning days of former Chief Phillip Morse's tenure, were expected to go into effect today.
Earlier this month USCP came under fire from officers and the union over the changes, which would have required officers to cover any tattoos they have when working, restricted the sorts of “body augmentations” officers can have performed and placed severe restrictions on when officers can use leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act.
But Kimberly Schneider, a spokeswoman for USCP, said Tuesday that officials had agreed to delay the implementation until August 15.
“In an effort to continue the support of employees’ familiarity with the new Written Directive System, the period of review is being extended to August 15, 2012. No formal personnel actions regarding any of the new or revised content will occur during this extended period,” Schneider said.
“All employees should continue to adhere to Department policies and procedures. The USCP continues to work with all of our employees regarding any transition issues,” she added.
That means that the numerous officers serving on the Capitol grounds with visible tattoos on their arms and legs will not be forced to wear long sleeves and pants while spending hours in Washington’s brutal summer sun as temperatures soar above 100.
The decision to delay the rules came following a review of the nearly 100 new or modified regulations by the police union identified at least 10 problematic “directives.” According to a police source, the union completed the review last Friday and submitted a request to negotiate over those directives, prompting USCP officials to delay their implementation.
“The ‘new’ policies were to go into effect today (July 31) but Acting Chief Reynolds has extended it to August 15. At that point if they don't agree with our proposed changes we will start negotiations,” the source said in an email.
Jim Konczos, president of the Capitol Police union, declined to comment on what rules were being challenged beyond the tattoo and FMLA rules.
According to Konczos, the union’s position on the tattoo rule is that “”officers who already have them [should] be "grandfathered" in. Obviously we do not support the displaying of any tattoos that are offensive,” Konczos said.
“Our position is that if management feels so strongly about tattoos then they need to enforce it in their initial hiring process and deal with any possible legal ramifications there,” he added.
As for FMLA, Konczos said “We simply want them to follow the law. There are too many supervisors who have tried to impose their own will on this, which has led to formal complaints within the department, Office of Compliance complaints and litigation.”
Ironically, the decision to delay the rules in light of officers concerns comes as USCP has reportedly barred police working posts outside the Capitol from seeking shade under large umbrellas, according to The Hill newspaper.
John Stanton is a senior national correspondent for BuzzFeed News. In 2014, Stanton was a recipient of the National Press Foundation’s 2014 Dirksen Award for distinguished reporting of Congress.
Contact John Stanton at email@example.com.
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