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DOWNTOWN : LAPD Officers Seek 24-Hour Child Care

November 06, 1994|TINA NGUYEN

It's difficult raising three young children on your own. But just try doing it while working 15-hour days during riots and earthquakes, Los Angeles Police Sgt. Donna Roller says.

Even during calmer times, her 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. shift at the Northeast Division makes it difficult to arrange child care.

"It's hard to be consistently there for my kids. Our hours are always changing. I don't always know when I'm going to get off work. At times, I could get a late arrest," said the mother of a year-old daughter and two sons, ages 5 and 3. "I plan my life from month to month."

For the past three years, Roller has been on a child-care crusade. She and other LAPD officers are raising money to build child-care centers at the four department bureaus.

Roller believes officers with children need 24-hour child-care facilities to accommodate the unusual hours of police work.

A recent LAPD Human Resource Bureau survey of child-care needs in the Police Department showed that 22%, or 757 employees, have children under 5. Other statistics show officers took more than 1,200 days off work due to child-care problems in 1991.

A banquet sponsored by the Los Angeles Women's Police Officers' Assn. two weeks ago raised about $100,000 for the child-care project. The goal, said Roller, the group's secretary, is to establish child-care centers for the Central, Valley, South and West bureaus.

Mayor Richard Riordan has announced his support for the project, the city donated office space to the women officers association and the Police Department has given time off to fund-raiser organizers. Still, the women officers are struggling to collect funds on their own.

Potential facilities at the Central and West bureaus have been spotted, but Roller said more funds must be raised to meet the $250,000 construction cost of each center. Annual fund-raisers will be scheduled for the next four years.

Each center would be contracted out to licensed consultants who would care for infants and preschoolers. The centers would be available to both police and fire department employees during emergencies such as earthquakes and fires, Roller added.

Roller offers herself as an example of the need for the centers.

When emergencies demand flexible hours, she is under the gun to ensure her children's safety and stand in the line of duty. During the 1992 riots, she already had two sons and she and her former husband, also an officer, worked 15-hour shifts for 21 consecutive days. Her sister-in-law had to come from out of town to baby-sit.

When last January's earthquake hit, her only option was to send her children to a baby-sitter who was forced to live in a pitched tent in front of her home, left in shambles by the temblor.

But odd hours and long workdays aren't exclusive to disaster situations. "Before I had kids, I didn't mind any shift. Now I have three and things are different," said Roller, who now relies on a live-in baby-sitter.

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