Hillman plays defense

Just got back from Reed Hillman's kickoff speech. I'll have more to say about it later; for now, here's the stuff likely to interest readers most--an exchange between Hillman and reporters about those restrictions on pregnant officers that prompted a lawsuit during Hillman's stint as State Police colonel:

Q: Lieutenant Govenor, what do you think of the policy that Reed defended with the State Police that [barred] pregnant women from doing a lot of activities?

Kerry Healey: Well, I think that I'll let Reed talk about that particular policy.  But what I can tell you is that I have no doubt at all that women can trust Reed Hillman to fight for their rights, to work for victims' rights of all kinds for all people in this Commonwealth. He wouldn't be standing here with me today if I didn't believe that.

Q: But do you support that policy?

Healey: That policy has been changed. And I think that it has been modernized in a way that made sense. At the time, the State Police had a policy that their top doctor, the surgeon--surgeon general? is that what you call it?--yes, their surgeon general was the person to make the determination when a pregnant individual would go out on partial disability. Now the person can go to their own doctor and have that determined. And I think that's a much more rational policy, and I will let Reed add to that.

Hillman: The State Oolice had a policy of constant rewriting of our policies [inaudible], which is a very large volume, one of which is the temporary modified leave policy. As colonel, it was my job to sign off on the work that's been done by staff and human resources and legal. And the temporary modified leave that was put in place initially was one that a small number of females found did not work for them. They made a complaint. The--the end result was that we changed that policy, and the policy that i signed in 1998, which is still in place today, is a national model, protects females who are pregnant, and allows they and their physician to make the determination.

Q: But you defended the old policy at the time.

Hillman: The old policy at the time was developed by the people who are experts in house, in consultation with gynecologists and--obstetricians! Thank you. Developed with input from an obstetrician who was an expert in the area. The big difference is that the old policy said it was the State Police surgeon, a contract employee of the State Police, who made that determination. The new policy allows the trooper and her physician to make that decision.

Q: Do you regret making that decision at the time?

Hillman: At the time, we thought we made the right decision.

Q: No regrets about making that decision now?

Hillman: Of course there's a regret. If I could live my life again I would do many things differently, and that would be one.

Q: Were you involved in writing that policy? Or was it at the staff level, and you signed off on it?

Hillman: The staffers in research and development and human resources [inaudible], almost all of whom were female, did a nationwide search to see, How do [we] have a temporary modified leave that protects the members of the Sate Police and the public we serve. And the policy they developed was signed off by me, no question about it. It applied to men and women; it said the same thing for everybody. It was a gender-neutral policy which stated the department's physician, for any type of temporary physical disability--including pregnancy--he would make the decision. As i said, the new policy that I signed in 1998, we left the decision up to the officer and her physician.
Thoughts, anyone? My first inclination is to give Hillman a B-. He handled the questions decently, but trying to 1) avoid responsibility for a policy implemented by underlings and then 2) take credit for a replacement policy that was crafted at the behest of then-governor Paul Cellucci* seems a little far-fetched.

*CORRECTION: I initially wrote that the lawsuit was responsible for the new policy. In fact, as an astute reader pointed out, the lawsuit came several months after the new policy was hammered out. My apologies for the gaffe.
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