by Cookie Lommel
Random members talked about their experience being deployed to work in the Camps and Halls under the COVID-19 umbrella. Being deployed from the Probation Area Offices to work with youth in the Camps and Halls was a very different experience for many of these officers who had not worked with juveniles in ten, twenty, or some even thirty years.
What a challenge! The main issue for most of these officers was “training” as there are different skills needed to work in the Camps and Halls that you don’t come face to face with when you work in the field offices. If the Department is going to deploy staff, at least give them some training – the skills and tools needed are totally different!
“When I went to work at one of the Halls, there was a feeling of uneasiness because everyone wanted to avoid any infection; however, my attitude was that I was there, and I just wanted to help. Since I had worked in so many different departments in Probation I always wanted to learn as much as possible, so I had moved about every three years of my more than twenty years in the Probation Department, so it turned out to be fine because I was flexible. Generally, my experience was a very good one because the staff who were already, at the facility were “top notch,” helpful, and accommodating.”
“I was first deployed in April, sometimes to a Camp and sometimes to a Hall. The one thing I noticed that I did not understand is that each facility was overstaffed. If there were 35 kids, there would be 35 staff. Why? You don’t need one staff per juvenile, we were told that the people from the field offices were supposed to be back-up for the regular staff. Well, that could not have been the case because the first day I was at one of the Halls things were quiet and running well. But the second night there was a fight, lots of wildness. Even though that took place, my overall experience was a good one; however, the staff that was normally in the facility was a bit frustrated because there was a lack of communication with upper management. This is the major issue that needs to be dealt with.”
“I have worked in this Department for over 20 years and I consistently work overtime, so this was not strange for me to work at the Camps or Halls. I like working with the juveniles – they respect me, and I respect them. I was fine because management kept their word with me. I was always in a back-up position, like they said, so the entire experience was good one for me.”
“I had not been in a Camp for 19 years, but I enjoy working with kids and I always look for a way to connect with them. Some of them like to play checkers or dominos so when you sit down and start to engage them in a conversation, they open up and it creates a real sense of communication, which I think is so important. There was a kid who had been in the compound for a while; I knew him very well. He was a smart kid and an amazing writer. My system of communicating with youngsters helped me to reach out to this young man and encourage him to continue to hone his writing skills and to help him grow as he was a very troubled juvenile.”
“I have always worked with juveniles, so this was a very pleasant experience for me. However, it had been eleven years since I consistently worked in the Halls. For the last 12 years, I had worked in the field, in investigations, calling parents, calling witnesses, interacting with victims, DA investigators, etc. When I was first deployed, I thought there would be some sort of training or introduction presentation to what we would be doing because the first thing I noticed was there had been a lot of changes, particularly with the juveniles. If I told a juvenile to pick up his wet towel, suddenly I had to negotiate with him concerning whether he was going to follow my instruction. This was not the way we generally work with juveniles; they were previously more respectful, perhaps I should have had training on ‘negotiating.’”
“I was first deployed in April, and when I got there, there was a rumor going around that a staff member may have been exposed to COVID-19, had taken the test, and was awaiting results. As this piece of information continued to float around, I was surprised there was no management response, presentation, or discussion about this. COVID-19 was in the news constantly and it was killing people; however, the staff realized that we were on our own, so we exchanged information. When the staff member received the positive results, staff who worked with her were sent home; however, there was still no organized communication from upper management. Certainly, we could not blame our supervisors as no one was telling them either, but the entire incident was handled in a very disappointing manner. As time went on, I was exposed myself. When I told my doctor he immediately had me come in for a test and told me to quarantine until I received the results. It took 5 days to get the results but luckily it was negative. However, a few days later I started feeling sick – coughing, body aches, and feeling tired – so I tested again, and it was positive. Imagine if my doctor had not had me stay home to be certain of the results, I could have infected others.”
What was your Deployment Experience? Please send me short story of what took place—Cookie Lommel, CLommel@AFSCME685.com