*Cops Sue to Get Christmas Off, Ordered to Work Due to Y2K Worries* - Interesting Story -

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Cops Sue to Get Christmas Off - Ordered to Work Due to Y2K Worries

Dec. 7, 1999

By Robert Anthony Phillips

VILLA PARK, Ill. (APBnews.com) -- Three local police officers believe their chief is the Grinch who stole Christmas and have filed a lawsuit to get it back.

In their complaint, the officers charge that it isn't fair Chief Ronald Ohlson and village officials are not allowing them to take Christmas Day off to be with their families.

Ohlson said he needs all available officers on duty during the holidays in case the much-feared Y2K computer glitch rears its ugly head and panic ensues in the village.

And there lies the problem.

'No basis' for Christmas shifts

Thomas Polacek, the attorney for the Metropolitan Alliance of Police, which represents the local officers, said the village and Ohlson have not shown any evidence that the Y2K bug will cause chaos in Villa Park, a village of 22,279 about 20 miles west of Chicago.

He charges that the village is acting "Grinchlike" in denying the officers the time off.

"I've seen some Chicken Little articles on the Internet and in the newspapers saying what is going to happen," Polacek said. "But those have mostly focused on New Year's Eve. I am aware of no basis [for the fears], and they provided us with nothing to justify this."

Jill Leka, the village's attorney, said the brouhaha is "much ado about nothing." At stake, she said, is the chief's prerogative to anticipate the manpower needs of his department.

"[The chief's] view is that he'd love to give them time off, but in choosing between time off and public safety, he will err on the side of safety. None of us has a crystal ball. The chief is no exception. We staff based on what the chief anticipates could happen."

Order prompts grievance

The problem started Feb. 1, 1999, when Ohlson issued a special order saying that officers in his 32-member department would not be allowed to take time off between Dec. 19 and Jan. 1, 2000. However, Ohlson said that any officer not on the regular rotation during those days or with previously approved vacation would not have to work.

Three police officers, Tim Ulatowski, Ron Ahrendt and Jeff Runge, had accumulated compensatory time for extra time they had worked on the job. The officers asked to have Christmas Day off, and a sergeant immediately denied the request, Polacek said.

Polacek said that the officers have a right, as outlined in the labor contract, to take the time off they've earned.

The labor lawyer said that after the officers' grievances were denied, he decided to file a lawsuit in the DuPage County Circuit Court. Polacek is asking a judge to stop the village from forcing the officers to work on Christmas Day. A hearing on the issue has been scheduled for Dec. 16.

Widespread fear for New Year's

Ohlson's decision was based on a scenario in which a supposed Y2K meltdown could shut down electric and natural gas service and "cripple the county."

"The result could be wide spread hysteria and panic," Ohlson said in his special order, issued Feb. 1, 1999.

Ohlson is not alone in his Y2K fears.

Cops, government prepare for worst

The FBI has barred vacations for agents from Dec. 27 to Jan. 7 and has warned of fanatics acting out their apocalyptic visions. The Washington Metropolitan Police Department also has frozen all leaves from Dec. 26 through Jan. 15. The federal government has opened a Y2K crisis center to monitor any technology failures around the world.

The Houston Police Department will have all 5,400 of its officers on duty New Year's Eve as part of its Y2K readiness program, department spokesman John Leggio said.

But the Chicago Police Department said it has a contingency plan to call in off-duty officers if needed. A spokesman for the department said that no officers have had vacations canceled because of Y2K fears.

The Seattle Police Department said it is beefing up the number of officers on the street and not granting any vacations for Dec. 31 and Jan. 1.

County easing off

But while Villa Park appeared edgy about Y2K, the town's county seemed to be easing up on leave restrictions.

The DuPage County Sheriff's Office originally canceled all vacations days, compensatory days or any exchanging of days off from November through January.

Officials re-evaluated and now have restricted leave only from Dec. 27 through January, said Monica Sampias, spokeswoman for Sheriff John Zaruba.

Sampias said even that might be lifted, depending on what happens at the New Year.

Polacek believes that if Y2K generates any problems, they are more likely to occur on New Year's Day, not Christmas. He said that in a meeting with village officials, he offered a compromise: to ban compensatory days just before the New Year. Polacek said the village refused.

Village attorney Leka said she was not aware of any compromise offered by Polacek.

URL: http://www.apbnews.com:80/cjprofessionals/behindthebadge/1999/12/07/christmas1207_01.html


-- snooze button (alarmclock_2000@yahoo.com), December 08, 1999


So, to win the case, the PD has to prove (or at least provide strong evidence) that there is going to be civil unrest BEFORE rollover?


-- Servant (public_service@yahoo.com), December 08, 1999.

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