Public Safety Officers Gather in Columbus

by Pablo Ros  |  October 28, 2013

Public Safety Officers Gather in Columbus Members of the Iowa Council 61 delegation pose with AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders.

It was a time to come together, to honor the fallen and push forward for safer working conditions for all public safety officers.

More than 350 corrections officers and sworn law-enforcement personnel from across the nation gathered in Columbus, Ohio, for the AFSCME Public Safety Congress.

Among them were members of the Newtown Police Union, Local 3153, who received the 2013 Law Enforcement Award for their response to the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.

Scott Ruszczyk, president of Local 3153, accepted the award and spoke about the role officers played responding to the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting. The perpetrator still had nearly 200 more rounds of ammunition at the time he was killed, Ruszczyk noted. Had first responders not intervened, more lives could have been lost. 

Members of the Lucasville Corrections Facility in Ohio received the 2013 Corrections Award in recognition of their role quelling a deadly riot 20 years ago that claimed the life of OCSEA member Robert Vallandingham.

Accepting the ACU award on behalf of his sisters and brothers, Luke Vansickle, president of Local 7730, presented Pres. Lee Saunders with the roster from the shift when the riot started – a document that has been in the local’s possession ever since. It will hang in the lobby of AFSCME’s headquarters in Washington, DC. 

At the event, Saunders announced the donation of $100,000 to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

“Our National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington, DC, serves to remind everyone – every tourist, every family, every resident who has ever called for help – of the ultimate sacrifice that too many of our public safety officers make every year,” Saunders said.  “It helps keep those officers in our hearts and minds.”

Throughout the conference, participants strategized on the common issues their locals confront, such as funding cuts to state prisons and politicians who cater to big businesses at the expense of public workers.

Mike Fraise, a member of AFSCME Local 2989, Council 61, who works in the Iowa State Penitentiary, said Gov. Terry Branstad “is trying to cut staffing to save money.” He was particularly interested in sessions on funding for public services.

Judy Kuschel, a community corrections officer in Washington state and member of Council 28, said she was drawn to the event by the educational opportunities offered.

“It’s a great place to get more ideas from other people around the country of how they do their jobs, and the kind of training they get,” Kuschel said.


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