Controversy Over Shoes In Ohio Highway Patrol

The State Highway Patrol and the troopers’ union are digging in their heels in a dispute over their footwear.

The Ohio State Troopers Association contends that new chukka-style shoes being issued to troopers are slick, leading to slips and falls, and come off too easily while wrestling suspects or chasing them on foot.

The union and three troopers have filed grievances accusing the patrol of creating an unsafe working condition by requiring all troopers to begin wearing the new shoe by Nov. 1.

The union accuses patrol leadership of valuing appearance over safety in refusing to back off its choice of a buckle-and-strap shoe to replace the leather “athletic” lace-up chukka favored by many troopers.

“They are more of a dress shoe than a shoe suitable for units actually working the roads,” said Trooper Larry Phillips, president of the troopers’ union.

The patrol said the union cannot support claims of injuries or “loss of work time” due to unsafe shoes. Troopers wore the same style for years and its “safety has never come into question,” the patrol wrote in response to the complaints.

Lt. Anne Ralston, patrol spokeswoman, said the patrol is willing to continue discussing the shoes rather than wait for an arbitrator to hear the grievance, which Phillips said could take up to 18 months.

“It’s management’s right to determine the equipment troopers will wear while on duty. At the same time, we would never compromise officer safety,” Ralston said.

The State Troopers Association’s Facebook page contains complaints from troopers and features a video that the union contends shows how easily the shoes can slip off.

“It is not made to endure the rigors of daily road work,” wrote Trooper James M. Davis of the Piqua post. “The patrol is subjecting their officers to potential injury by forcing them to wear a dress shoe on the road.”

Road troopers also complain that the shoe is not moisture-resistant and does not provide ankle support, and they note that others, such as canine handlers and motor-enforcement officers, still are allowed to wear the old shoes.

They have no objections to wearing them as a dress shoe to court or ceremonial occasions. Troopers still can wear a more-rugged boot during inclement weather.

From The Columbus Dispatch

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