BLEA Responds to West. COBA President Rhetoric over Officers losing Health Benefits when Injured on the job

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BLEA Representative, Damon K. Jones responds to Westchester COBA President, Alonzo West Letter (see below) in Regarding Officers with less than 5 years being injured on the job, retired by the county and losing their healthcare

 

Dear Mr. West,

Thank you for your reply to our letter from February.

First, I should be clear; I bear no malice against you. What you perceive as malice from me might be the stress of accountability. As a dues paying member of COBA, I like many others want you to do your job and move accordingly to the mission statement of COBA. Because I pay dues, you work for me. As a member, I have the right to be critical of your actions and decisions as President because my dues pay your salary and the mission statement of COBA binds you.

Beyond the senseless personal attacks on my community concerns that you have no standing interest because you are not a resident of Mt. Vernon. I am also aware that you publicly spoke negatively about my wife and children. These types of actions show your constant need to try to justify who you are, but it just continues to diminish the little regard that those around you have for you.

I assure you that I am not your enemy. Your enemy is yourself and the history you will leave behind being a three-term Union President that negotiated to bring down salaries of his membership, separating our membership by salary and benefits that has created more dysfunction than unity within our union. These activities are just camouflage because you fail to recognize or want to comprehend that you failed miserably to protect the interest of a dues paying member who was injured to the point the county’s doctors recommended he retire on 207C and had his health care taken away.

As far as the Union President elections, you neglect to realize that between Pellone and myself in our last election, more officers voted against you than for you. You can lie to yourself and others, but the numbers don’t.

Mr. West, you also have conveniently forgotten that I was present at the meeting with you and Retired Officer Maxwell after years of ignoring Maxwell’s calls or letters in 2015. What founded advice did you provide then?  You never produced any paperwork, letters, recommendations, or established any evidence that you were working on officers’ behalf to rectify this outdated county policy. Now that Officer Maxwell has taken the issue into his own hands to inform the public, and elected officials of his situation in the hope that other officers will not fall into the same trap, two years later, you have the unmitigated gall to write a letter full of rhetoric trying to excuse your failure.

At our meeting, you never mentioned anything like what’s in your two-month late response of a letter. The fact of the issue is, according to Officer Maxwell; he never was informed that you filed a failed grievance on his behalf until after you loss the arbitration. You never produced it; we received the arbitration from a County Legislator. Once more, if you have issues with Officer Maxwell, who is the victim in this, you need to address Officer Maxwell.

After giving you three more months after the initial meeting, you still failed to make it known to the county lawmakers that there was a problem in the county policy relating to officers being retired on 207C with less than five years and maintaining their health care.

Mr. West, I am clear on the county policy, we have had and continue to have extensive talks to County Legislators about the policy. What is unclear, why you neglected to communicate with the County Legislators to change the county policy as it relates to officers injured on 207C? When Retired Officer Maxwell took upon himself to seek answers many legislators were unaware that there was even an issue.

The Truth of the matter is; many Legislators did not know that an officer could lose his health care with less than five years of service if injured on the job and retired on 207C. Thanks to Officer Maxwell, FIVE years later, they all now know. Then where were you advocating? Couldn’t have been in the county building.

As for you and others saying that Officer Maxwell does have health care coverage is very misleading. Officer Maxwell has maintained that he has a right to have his county health benefits. Having a supplemental health plan is not having county benefits.  Again, your actions and instructions to other COBA representatives to misrepresent the facts on what health care he has and what he should be entitled to go against the DNA and core values of any labor union.
No matter what nuances or proper language you claim Officer Maxwell has failed to use. There are few things that are completely clear; he was retired from the county for an on the job disability; he had his county benefits’ taken because of a county policy; after FIVE YEARS of knowing the problem; you have failed to correct the problem. With the many inmate assaults on officers, splashing with urine and feces and the majority of Officers now working has less than five years. I hope you understand your problem is bigger today than it was five years ago.

No matter what nuances or proper language you claim Officer Maxwell has failed to use. There are few things that are completely clear; he was retired from the county for an on the job disability; he had his county benefits’ taken because of a county policy; after FIVE YEARS of knowing the problem; you have failed to correct the problem. With the many inmate assaults on officers, splashing with urine and feces and the majority of Officers now working has less than five years. I hope you understand your problem is bigger today than it was five years ago.

As far as Officer Maxwell recording his conversation with Mr. Pellone. Once more, if you have a problem with what he did, then you need to call or write Officer Maxwell. I know it’s always easy for you to blame me, but once again, you’re incorrect. With the many grievances with Officer Maxwell, why aren’t you contacting him?

But we get it Mr. West. It is not that you can’t help Officer Maxwell, you have chosen not to. Why? Because Officer Maxwell had the audacity to challenge you and ask for my assistance. You never had any intentions on helping him that’s why you never responded to his letters. Many of the legislators say that Officers Maxwell’s fate is in your hands, but you refused to now because you have been exposed that your five-year charade on this issue has been a fraud. You have broken the cardinal rule of leadership; you made it personal and now it’s on display for everyone to see.

It’s incomprehensible that a Union President acts like it is a crime for a county worker, retired from active duty to address the county lawmakers and seek solutions on issues that affect hundreds of other active county workers. This is not Syria, Russia or any third world state. The last I remember, as a citizen of the United States, there is something called the Constitution and the First Amendment right of free speech.

Mr. West, you’re responding in April from an email I sent you in February. We are so beyond this matter at this point. So many other things have transpired since our letter to you. The fact of the matter is; at this point, your response is irrelevant.

Finally, to question the motives of a Black Law Enforcement Organization (not a minority) shows your disconnect organizationally and culturally. You have never been a member of any historic National Black Law Enforcement Organization like the National Black Police Association, National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice or statewide Grand Council of Guardians. Your lack of involvement for your entire career reduces you to be unqualified spiritually and culturally even discussing what a Black Law Enforcement organization is about or what our mission statement signifies.

I deeply appreciate your letter. It is my hope that instead of selecting the time to spew rhetoric and poorly defend your five-year failure in correcting an outdated county policy. You will use the same energy to compose press releases or statements, inform and teach the public about the day-to-day dangers that Correction Officers face, the many assaults and safety issues and how these issues have a detrimental effect on our health and family. It would be better time management and more productive for the membership.

Thank you for your time in this matter.

Damon K. Jones

New York Representative

Blacks in Law Enforcement of America

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

It is our duty as peace officers and members of Blacks in Law enforcement of America to continue the fight for freedom, justice, and equality for all citizens. We will be advocates of law enforcement professionals by establishing continuous training and support. As black law enforcement professionals, we pledge our time, honor, and talent for the uplifting of our communities. We are truly the leaders of the community, in and out of our blue uniform.

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Blacks in Law enforcement will continue to express “ Black” as it refers to people of color that are law enforcement professionals. The emphasis is on the common experience and determination of the people of African, Afro-Caribbean and Asian origin that opposes the effects of the policies and procedures in the history of our Justice System, that are based on racial bias and disproportionality.
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