Police officers have to face many dangers while on duty, but the police officers at Southeast Community Police Station in Los Angeles never imagined they’d be subject to health hazards while still at home base. However, unsanitary conditions have recently come to light, resulting in over 100 workers compensation claim filings due to black mold and other concerns.
The problems have allegedly existed since 2008. Chief among these complaints are the ceiling vents and rectangular ducts in the station. Not only do they take up to three inches more space than spiral ductwork, but employees claim they are also filled with black mold and bird feathers.
Employees at the station, like Detective Donna Wheeler, have experienced significant respiratory issues. Wheeler was finally diagnosed with asthma connected to environmental irritants after discovering that her symptoms worsened at the end of a workweek and improved after going away on vacation.
In all, around 115 LAPD officers and civilian employees have now filed workers comp claims related to the respiratory issues they’ve experienced as a result of the conditions at the station. While the city of Los Angeles did commission an official report on the mold back in November, no microbial health hazard was discovered. However, the consultants did recommend that the city reduce the amount of mold in the ventilation system.
Elizabeth Silver, general counsel for the Los Angeles Police Protective League, says that the high number of reported respiratory illnesses within the station’s employee pool is very unusual, and that immediate action needs to be taken to remedy the situation.
“The entire station needs to be examined and cleaned up the same way they would clean their own home,” said Silver.
When it comes to keeping the ventilation system clean, it looks like the city failed to do its job. While experts recommend that HVAC systems need to have just their filters changed every one to three months, it’s been years since the police ducts had a thorough cleaning.
Fortunately, the city seems to be taking action now. General manager of the city’s General Services Department, Tony Royster, noted in a written statement that Los Angeles has already begun getting rid of the mold.
“Based on an inspection of the heating and air conditioning system requested by LAPD in a portion of Southeast Area Community Police Station, the City’s General Services Division on Dec. 15 ordered cleaning to eradicate mold found in the system’s ductwork and registers,” said Royster. The work is expected to be completed by February 10. They will also conduct a full inspection and get rid of any mold found in the rest of the building.
Police station employees are glad that something is finally being done, but the fact that it’s taken years to address is unacceptable to the officers. Vice president of the Police Protective League, Jerretta Sandoz, summed up:
“We can accept our jobs being dangerous on the streets, but it shouldn’t be dangerous at the police station,” she said.