NC police group ask city to give officers hazard pay during pandemic

Police officers and other essential city employees in the city of Charlotte would receive an extra $500 per month

Amanda Zhou
The Charlotte Observer

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A support organization for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department officers wants the city to pay law enforcement officers and other essential public employees hazard pay as they work through the coronavirus pandemic.

Police officers are considered essential workers under the stay-at-home orders locally and at the state level. Officers, along with paramedics, fire fighters and others, such as garbage collectors, are expected to continue work. The union for local sanitation workers raised concerns Tuesday about safety for employees who pick up recycling and trash in Charlotte.

The Fraternal Order of Police, a support organization for CMPD officers, has said that these employees should receive hazard pay, to compensate for possible on-the-job exposure to the virus. Although the FOP represents CMPD officers, organization spokesman Chris Kopp said they are hoping to spearhead the effort for all essential city employees.

Hazard pay amounts to $500 extra per month, Kopp said.

“The governor ordered a shelter in place and these employees don’t have that option,” he said in an interview.

There have been cases of COVID-19 among first responders in Mecklenburg County.

At least four first responders have tested positive. The first responders include two CMPD officers, a Medic ambulance worker and a Charlotte Fire Department employee. In Cabarrus County, a paramedic tested positive on Tuesday.

Mecklenburg County jail facilities have had two reported cases of COVID-19 — one from a detention officer and another from a nurse.

Across the country, the call for hazard pay has been echoed by unions representing people who work a wide range of jobs — from emergency medical personnel to grocery store clerks and nurses and doctors.

So far, city officials in Charlotte have not announced plans for hazard pay.

In a press conference Tuesday, Mayor Vi Lyles did not directly answer a question on whether the city would pay first responders more money to compensate for coronavirus risks.

“We are always going to treat our employees fairly,” she said and added that the city would do what it could to keep and retain people.

Some cities have began adding more pay for front-line workers. In Atlanta, the mayor has issued an order that gives front-line city employees an additional $500 per month. Birmingham City Council also voted to appropriate half a million dollars for hazard and overtime pay for city employees.

Mayor Lyles said she could not speak to what other cities like Atlanta or New York have done since they are in a “very different circumstance.”

Kopp says that while officers have protective equipment — like masks and gowns — it’s not always practical for law enforcement to use the equipment.

“For city employees, every call that they go on and every person that they come in contact with after, they’re expected to basically sanitize themselves before they go to the next call,” he said.

“It sounds simple but it’s not very practical with an officer who’s trying to arrest someone fighting them to the ground.”

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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