Officer suspended for calling in sick during Hurricane Irma
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (WPEC) - They work hard through the hurricane to help us.
But who is helping them during those times of trouble?
A Port St. Lucie Police officer has been suspended for calling in sick during Hurricane Irma because she said she had to take care of her children.
The details of this case are contained in an Internal Affairs report.
When a hurricane is heading in our direction, should a police officer and mother with kids be required to come in? Or should the mother be allowed to stay home and take care of her kids?
When Hurricane Irma was taking aim at South Florida in early September, one police officer on the Treasure Coast was calling in sick.
“I’ve already booked out for today, so I wanted to let you know that tomorrow, of course, I’m gonna be calling in sick too because of the whole you know, no child care,” Port St. Lucie Police Officer Erika Curry said in a voicemail released by police.
According to Internal Affairs, Officer Curry couldn’t get anyone to watch her kids.
Her husband, a St. Lucie County firefighter, was being activated, and so Officer Curry decided she couldn’t come to work, even though police officers were notified they would have to work mandatory 13-hour shifts. The Internal Affairs report says her mother-in-law was supposed to watch her two children, but she evacuated as the hurricane was approaching leaving Curry with no childcare options. Here’s what Curry’s supervisor told Internal Affairs.
“She said she didn’t have child care and her husband was being activated and she wouldn’t be able to work the emergency shift schedules as ordered,” said Acting Lt. Michelle Steele, Port St. Lucie Police.
Records show that Officer Curry at first tried to take vacation time during the hurricane. When that didn’t work, she had a union rep call in sick for her and she took two sick days Saturday, September 9 and Sunday, September 10 and stayed home even though she didn’t have enough sick time to cover it.
Internal Affairs documents say: “She was directed via email that despite her request, she was still mandated to report to duty as required.”
Curry sent a text message that Saturday that reads: “Sun I don’t have childcare as well the reason I wasn’t here today or tomorrow. Long story and I’m aware I’m prob getting a write up”
During a recorded interview with the Police Chief, Curry said very little but documents show she accepted responsibility for her actions.
“Have anything you want to add to the record?” asked Police Chief John Bolduc while interviewing Officer Curry.
“Nope,” Curry responded.
Curry also had to sign what’s called a “Last Chance Agreement,” meaning if she does this again in a year’s span, she could lose her job.
Officer Erika Curry was suspended for 120 hours without pay for violating department policy for misuse of sick benefits, absence from duty and reporting for duty.
We asked through a police department spokesman if Curry had any comment, and we were told she does not wish to comment. The spokesman also said the police chief declined to comment.
CBS12 will stay on top of this story.
We will continue digging into what options are available for parents in these kinds of situations and what it means in Florida, which is a right to work state.