227 – Administrative Leave Following Critical Incident

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I.  Purpose

In accordance with Texas Government Code Section 614.015, Mental Health Leave for Peace Officers, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office has established guidelines for employees to take Administrative Leave who have experienced traumatic events in the course of their duty.

II. Definitions

Administrative Leave: Administrative Leave is a temporary leave from a job assignment, with pay and benefits intact.

Critical Incidents: An event which is potentially significantly impactful to an individual either due to being outside the norm of their typical experiences or due to being experienced as sudden, overwhelming, threatening or protracted.

Post-Critical Incident Debriefing: A mental health appointment to (1) to address immediate reaction(s) to a critical incident; (2) to determine whether a trauma response has occurred; (3) to provide education, and (4) to determine whether there is evidence of impairment which requires further intervention.

Traumatic: Psychologically or emotionally stressful in a way that can potentially lead to serious mental and emotional problems. While Critical Incidents are by definition stressful, not all are experienced as traumatic.

III.  Policy

It is the policy of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office to promote the psychological wellbeing of our employees who have experienced critical incidents. As stated in our fifth core value, “Develop, encourage, and care for our Sheriff’s Office family”, it is important to recognize stress related to critical incidents can affect everyone differently, therefore, the Sheriff’s Office will provide Administrative Leave to help with the coping aspect of those experiences.

IV.  Circumstances Indicating Administrative Leave

There are 3 general circumstances under which an employee is assigned this leave:

A. Per HCSO policy #501 section VII.C.2, following a use of force resulting in death or serious bodily injury, the employee will be assigned to Administrative Leave for a minimum of three days. Prior to returning to duty, the employee is required to attend a post-critical incident debriefing with a Behavior Health Division (BHD) Mental Health Provider, who may at that time extend the Administrative Leave for a set time. (HCSO Policy #418 sections II.B and III.B)

B. Following an incident not covered in Department Policy 501, in which a supervisor, in communication with an employee and in consultation with BHD staff, determines that a Critical Incident has occurred, may assign the employee to administrative status pending a required post-critical incident debriefing with a BHD Mental Health Provider, who may at that time extend the administrative status for a set time.

C. When the employee self-refers to BHD following a Critical Incident and a BHD Mental Health Provider (with the employee’s consent) recommends administrative status for a set time to the employee’s supervisor. If consent to notify their immediate supervisor is not provided, the employee will not be given Administrative Leave.

V. Pay and benefits

An employee on Administrative Leave is considered “present for duty,” and is counted as such during their normal work schedule, with no deduction in salary, sick, vacation, or comp time.  

VI. Administration Leave Period 

Three days of Administrative Leave are mandated per Department Policy 501 – De-Escalation and Response to Resistance, section VII, H 2. In all other situations, the days of Administrative Leave will be determined during the consultation with the BHD Mental Health Provider, and recommended in increments of up to 5 duty days.

Additional Administrative Leave may be recommended by the BHD Counselor after a follow-up session on the last day of the initial Administrative Leave period.

VII. Anonymity 

Details regarding any private interactions between an employee and BHD Staff are private and protected, except the specific communication to supervisors regarding the Administrative Leave recommendations outlined above, requiring employee consent.

Revisions

This policy was revised on the following dates:

December 27, 2021

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