Computer Crimes Unit, Crime Lab workers: Retirement security now!

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Over a dozen MSEA-SEIU members and others who work as civilians for the Maine State Police Computer Crimes Unit and the Maine State Police Crime Lab April 10 told the Legislature’s Labor and Housing Committee about the gruesome work they do every day. They spoke in support of LD 1355, legislation that State Senator Bill Diamond introduced to put workers who do this work in the 1998 Special Retirement Plan for law-enforcement officers.

The workers spoke firsthand about their unique skill sets. There’s no other way to put it: They do gruesome work. While their work impacts all of us in this great state, much of what they do is about protecting children. We are forever grateful to them for their public service, and now is the time to turn appreciation and respect for their work into action.

LD 1355 is about setting things right for these often unknown and unseen civilian workers. They do much of the same work as law-enforcement officers such as detectives or special agents. They often must wear hazmat suits while doing their jobs; their work includes collecting evidence at all hours, day or night, weekdays and weekends. They’ve worked on homicides involving babies. They’ve listened to 911 calls that recorded the gurgled breathing of beaten babies. Then they testify, as necessary, in cases at both the state and federal levels.

Legislators heard the words “raw” and “surreal” to describe just one case these workers worked on – a case in which even the judge stated how the graphic video evidence presented made him physically sick. Imagine having to experience such testimony all the time, every day, as part of your job, and then, at the end of the day, going home to your own family, your own life, your own children, all with that day’s case still fresh in your mind. Imagine having to do that same gruesome work until you reach age 62 or, if you started state service after July 1, 2006, until you reach age 65, in order to retire without incurring a 6 percent annual penalty on your public employee pension.

We can all agree the civilian workers in the Maine State Police Computer Crimes Unit and the Maine State Police Crime Lab do traumatic work. It takes a toll on them as workers, as private citizens, as spouses or partners, as parents. One forensic analyst, as a result of her work for the State of Maine, has, in her husband’s words, become “hypervigilant about any unknown men being close to our daughter.”  With their “constant exposure to violence and death,” only one civilian scientist in the State Police Crime Lab has made it to normal retirement age in the past 35 years. It’s past time we stopped expecting these workers to do this gruesome work until their normal retirement age. It’s past time to include these civilian workers in the 1988 Special Retirement Plan. Please support LD 1355. More photos from the hearing are below:

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State Senator Bill Diamond introduces LD 1355.

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Workers cried in

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Senator Bill Diamond, standing in back, listens to workers testify in support of LD 1355.

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Senator Bill Diamond, standing in back, listens to workers testify in support of LD 1355.

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State Rep. Scott Cuddy asks a question as Labor and Housing Committee Co-chairs Senator Shenna Bellows and State Rep. Mike Sylvester, shown from left, listen.

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Updated: April 10, 2019 — 4:04 pm