Judge: Officers Must Get Paid for Putting on Their Clothes

In a decision that could cost Los Angeles millions of dollars in back pay and higher salaries, a federal judge has ruled that LAPD officers should be paid for the time it takes them to put on and take off their uniforms and safety equipment.

In a 39-page ruling issued this week, U.S. District Court Judge Gary Feess found that the several minutes it takes an officer to dress for duty is a vital part of the job because "police uniforms convey and legitimize officers' authority, increase officer safety, and help deter crime," the Los Angeles Times reported.

Feess decided that the dress time, generally thought to be between five and 15 minutes on each end of a shift, falls under the compensation rules of the U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act, which requires employers to pay employees for all hours worked, The Times reported.

The decision, which applies to three similar cases that had been brought by LAPD officers, drew a sharp rebuke from Police Chief William Bratton, who lashed out at the officers and the city's Police Protective League, the rank-and-file officers' union, which has filed a separate lawsuit on the issue.

"I think that it's outrageous that they are even seeking" the additional pay, the chief said in remarks quoted by The Times. "We have enough costs to bear without paying officers to take their clothes on and off."

Greg Petersen, the lawyer who sued the city on behalf of the officers, said that preparation time involves more than putting on a uniform, The Times reported.

Strapping on Sam Browne equipment belts, which can weigh more than 30 pounds, and required body armor, as well as preparing weapons and other equipment for duty, takes time and effort, Petersen said.

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