The Fight Against Crime: Notes From the Front : Police Station Pregnant With Esprit de Corps

TIMES STAFF WRITER

It takes a determined effort to make some things work together well: Democratic presidents and Republican senators, stripes and plaid. To that list, you might add police officers and pregnancy.

"The (other officers) just joke around with us. The other day the sergeant was saying, 'Can you believe this?' when I was having contractions in the station. I think they are very nervous that I might go into labor on duty," Officer Kristin Traynor said recently. Not without reason--by the time this column was written, she actually was in labor.

In all, four officers at the LAPD's Devonshire Division station were pregnant recently.

Before Traynor and Officer Ingrid Langrehr gave birth within the last week, all four could be found huddled in the locker room or hallway of the station, speaking in hushed voices about the impending births.

"Did you feel this?"

"What did your doctor say?"

A male officer walked by and asked, "Talking about babies again?"

They answered, "Of course."

And as the hardships of war brought men together in the past, pregnancy in police uniform has become a female bonding experience, adding to the traditional cop camaraderie the mutual experience of changes in their bodies and changes on the job.

Professionally, after submitting confirmation from a doctor that they are pregnant, they are put on light duty, meaning a desk job. Other LAPD rules require that they no longer make arrests, wear their equipment belt or carry a gun.

As their bodies grow with new life, they must alter their uniforms, spending $60 on a pair of uniform pants and adding expandable spandex panels. They replace uniform shirts with larger ones borrowed from male officers and wear them untucked. Traynor has been borrowing a uniform from her husband, a fellow officer in the CRASH anti-gang unit whom she met at the Police Academy.

Although they are allowed a four-month unpaid maternity leave, women officers and department executives say that most pregnant officers keep working and save up sick time--12 days a year--and vacation time, which can accumulate to about a month, to have more paid time off after the baby is born. Otherwise, they would have to be back on the job as soon as a doctor declared them fit to return to work to continue collecting a paycheck.

"We all plan on working until the end," said Officer Terri Meiss, who is due Nov. 4. "If we save our sick time and vacation time, we can take off. We have no paid maternity leave."

Officer Maureen Geller, due in early December, said it would be nice to take some weeks off before the birth "to shop and just prepare like other mothers," but to spend paid time with the baby after it's born, she has to "work up until the last day possible."

The change from an active officer on the street to a patient desk officer is not as easy as it sounds, some say.

"Working the desk is more stressful," said Meiss.

"You have to deal with the phones and you are on your feet all day," Meiss said. "It is very stressful and your patience goes out the window, especially when you are pregnant."

Geller doesn't have it so bad. "I am spoiled rotten here. They take care of me and make sure I have eaten and I am happy," she said.

"Sometimes they ask me if I am having light cramps," she said with a laugh. "They love me here."

But there's no escaping cop humor. Traynor said her co-workers teased her by appearing with rubber gloves and the kit that ambulance attendants carry to assist at births.

"They came out with the gloves on and the kit and I was laughing, saying 'You're not coming near me,' " she said.

Before she gave birth, Traynor said she actually felt more at ease at the station because it was closer to her hospital. But the last few days at work took a toll. "I feel myself getting tired," she said.

"The other officers always say, 'Why are you still here?' and I say it's because I want to take the time off afterwards with full pay," she explained. "I want to have a few months at home."

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