When asked to describe the year 2020, many call it unprecedented. The word that comes to my mind is brave, and that’s because of you. While most people worked from home and stayed away from the dangers of COVID-19, many of you faced it head-on. You got up every day and went in to work in order to keep our essential business running. You stepped up and took on the challenge without hesitation. Being an essential employee and front-line worker can be extremely stressful for both the employee and their family. The hazardous conditions of the prisons are risky in a normal situation, and heightened even more during this pandemic. I applaud you and thank you for your sacrifice and dedication.
While you have been out there laying your life on the line, you have continued to be disrespected by various agencies. CCSO is currently tackling a few challenging issues on behalf of our members. Although we are granted parity with rank and file staff, it seems we are always fighting and filing lawsuits in order to achieve that. Our newest case regards the disparity supervisors are receiving in PLP hours and PDD days with the latest budget cuts. We prevailed in past lawsuits over the violation of government code, and are hopeful this case will follow suit.
Another challenge we are currently handling is with CDCR’s Office of Legal Affairs and Office of Internal Affairs. They continuously fail to abide by our 2001 Permanent Injunction in regard to interview timing and representation, and have changed their interpretation of it. We have sent several letters asking for clarity so that we can come to an agreement or go back to court. Anytime you’re interrogated, you have the right to representation and must be given reasonable time to have your representative present. Additionally, witnesses also have the right to representation. Please remember to always ask for representation if you are being questioned about wrongdoing, either by you or others. Failure to allow you representation is a violation of your POBR rights.
The latest issue on our radar is the Office of Inspector General (OIG) overstepping its boundaries. California Penal Code establishes the OIG and tasks them with “contemporaneous oversight,” but what does that mean? Does that mean they can do whatever they want? Who oversees them to ensure they are following policy? There should always be checks and balances. Many of the OIG staff have no experience inside of a correctional facility. They make judgments on use of force, yet have never dealt with inmate attacks or run into a riot. Their job is to monitor and oversee the Department’s compliance with policies and procedures and report their findings. But now they are influencing wardens to issue more discipline of staff. For acting wardens, this can be a big dilemma. If they don’t follow the OIG’s recommendations, will the OIG hold that over their head during their warden’s vetting? That seems like quite a conflict of interest. Another example of overstepping is in the employee discipline process. Again, OIG should solely be monitoring the process and reporting on CDCR’s compliance with following the disciplinary policies and discipline matrix. They should not be part of determining the employee’s discipline or pushing the hiring authority to take certain action; however, we see that happen way too often. Additionally, if the hiring authority doesn’t do what they say, they request that the decision goes up the chain of command until someone buckles and they get what they want. This often leads to termination. For staff with good legal representation, especially CCSO members, the termination is usually overturned and then the Department owes back pay with penalty and interest. What a waste of money and time for something that could have been settled at a lower penalty with both parties in agreement. I often feel that the OIG’s reports justify their existence. I see evidence all the time that shows they are more powerful now than they were intended to be as an oversight agency. The Department has a knee-jerk reaction to each report and recommendation and runs scared instead of supporting their own staff. The OIG needs their power revoked, and CCSO is ready to make that happen!
As I said earlier, thank you for all that you do. You deserve better; you deserve respect. We will continue to fight in the coming year and push for parity and all that is due to supervisors and managers. We did our part during this pandemic and should be recognized. I see a bright 2021, and I believe you will be happy with our accomplishments. Keep up the great work and continue to make us proud!