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DC Chief, Police Union At Odds Over Breastfeeding Policy

June 28, 2011  | 

One of the Metro (D.C.) PD's lactation rooms. Photo courtesy of Kris Baumann.

A Metro (D.C.) Police Department directive to force breastfeeding officers onto patrol from light-duty assignments has sparked a pair of formal complaints from the police union.

In the complaints, the Fraternal Order of Police claims the agency isn't adequately accommodating its breastfeeding officers with inadequate lactating rooms, binding body armor, and forcing them into patrol duties where they have difficulty pumping milk.

Chief Cathy Lanier has backed the directive sent earlier in the year to the force's approximately 3,800 officers and notifying breastfeeding officers that they'll be required to use sick leave time if they don't strap on their body armor and hit the streets. About 22 percent of the force is comprised of female officers.

In an interview with FOX News DC, FOP Union President Kristopher Baumann called the directive "a war against pregnant officers and lactating officers that doesn't make sense."

Previously, the department set up lactating rooms and, in some stations, directed officers to use the break room. Baumann tells POLICE Magazine the lactation rooms are unsanitary and unfit for female officers who need privacy to express breast milk.

The female officers "are now getting into trouble because they aren't asking permission to use the lactation rooms," Baumann said. "Most of them are pretty dirty. The department has said it will do more than it has done. The federal government sets the base standard for this. They're just not meeting it."

Lanier is sticking by the current policy.

"Breastfeeding is a choice by a parent," Chief Lanier told FOX News, "we support that choice. We will accommodate them every way we can. But when we are talking about periods of years that go by, there's not much more I can do than provide as much reasonable accommodation as I can."

In D.C., employers must provide reasonable daily unpaid break periods, so an employee can "express breast milk for her child," according to the 2007 statute.

The D.C. breastfeeding statute also requires an employer to "make reasonable efforts to provide a sanitary room or other location, other than a bathroom or toilet stall, where an employee can express her breast milk in privacy and security. The location may include a childcare facility in close proximity to the employee's work location."

By Paul Clinton

Editor's note: Give us your opinion. How should law enforcement agencies accommodate breastfeeding officers? Vote in our Web poll.

Related: Pregnancy and Policing

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