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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

Comments (6)

Displaying 1 - 6 of 6

Blaine @ 6/28/2011 5:02 PM

Ya wanna be a cop? Then, be a cop! Ya wanna be a mom? Then, be a mom!

Women (and men) who expect special privileges for one reason or another put an undue burden on the rest of the force. If an officer can't or won't carry his/her share of the load, then he/she must find a line of work where his/her condition doesn't adversely affect coworkers.

Sean @ 6/30/2011 12:30 AM

I support a woman's right to breast feed their child. All the studies indicate that breast milk is a lot better for the child than formula or regular milk. A department should make REASONABLE accommodations for the woman to express their milk. BUT there comes a point in time when enough is enough. After a while, it is time for a female police officer to get back to being what she is paid to do, be a cop. It's not fair for the non-lactating women or men to have to pick up the slack caused by the woman being on light duty for long periods of time. Six months after being cleared to go back to full duty the woman needs to go back to full duty, body armor and all. If she can't handle that, then take unpaid leave until the baby is weaned.

The department needs to take more steps to provide a quiet, private, clean place for those women to express their milk. No excuse.

pteinert @ 6/30/2011 12:58 PM

Wow how times have changed. In the mid 80's - early 90's I was placed on light duty for my three pregnancies, after the births I had 10 - 12 weeks paid leave and was grateful for both. I came back in uniform and ready to do my job as agreed and expected. (it would be irresponsible not to wear our vest male or female) When making the decision to become a police officer these are things young women need to consider. How sad that now females believe and expect it is the community and departments duty to do without an officer and/or facilitate an officers personal choice. If you're not ready to do what the community and department pay you to do ... then take your leave, paid or unpaid, and be thankful that when you are able or decide to return full time your position is still there, because the other officers and community are the ones doing without while you're gone. It is possible to be both a cop and a mom, but to expect others to do without because of your personal choice is wrong. Regardless as to why the rooms are dirty, clean it, you're the one in need of it. Maybe, being a part of the solution would be a better choice than complicating the situation that you created.

Copcar69 @ 7/1/2011 5:27 PM

As a woman and a female cop, I just want to say, I had four kids and I chose to raise them before I started my career. I was home for them when they were small and now I have my own career. Just like Blaine said, You wanna be a cop, be a cop, You wanna be a mom, be a mom. Take your leave, wean your child and then get back to work! You come back to work in Full uniform..there should not be any excuses for not wearing your vest. Don't you wanna come home at night to that new baby???

ChicagoCopMom @ 7/2/2011 6:24 AM

It is Federal Law for employers to proivde for an adaquate room to accomidate breastfeeding mothers. Bottom Line.

OCSO124 @ 9/6/2011 7:45 AM

Oh come on now. Let's get real, you can't be a breastfeeding mother, and be a patrol officer at the same time. "Binding body armor"???? What's the alternative? If you're breatfeeding your infant, then you're off the road. You're 10-7A until you can come back to duty. On the other side, someone is going to have to take your load.

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