We find ourselves enjoying the seeming snippiness of the Orlando Police Department's public-information office of late. Surely, if you've turned on the television for "news" at any time during the day, you've come across some hyperbolic hyperventilating over something the Fuzz or some freak done wrong – especially if WFTV News 9 anchor Kathy Belich is involved ("Why did you kill that guy?" = great interview technique). Anyway, this week Belich highlighted a lawsuit filed by Master Sgt. Rhonda Huckelbery, who alleges she was canned by OPD for refusing to wear a bullet-proof vest. She says that she never had to wear one before, and that she thinks new Police Chief Paul Rooney is a horrible person responsible for the "gender, age and disability discrimination and retaliation she said she's suffered," according to Belich. Uh-oh.
Well, the newly brash OPD PIO office retaliated today with the missive below, in which it basically calls Belich out for making a non-story into a story and mischaracterizing the whole fracas. No comment on litigation means no comment on litigation. But what's truly titillating is the double-snap inclusion of an image depicting a breast cancer survivor-friendly vest that's been designed by a breast cancer survivor (we can only manage to get half the picture to show up there, but you've already seen enough). It may look all party, but it "means business." We can't tell what makes it different than other ladyvests – we're not vestophiles – but it does sport some pink mesh, and pink saves lives. Enjoy the smackdown here:
On 6/4/13, WFTV led with a story titled “Breast cancer survivor says she was fired from OPD because she couldn’t wear vest”. This story has now been rebroadcast by other media outlets.
The reporter, Ms. Kathi Belich, conducted this story as if the allegations themselves were fact. Ms. Belich went on to state that “OPD hasn’t said why it is now waffling about the vest and her job, because it won’t comment on pending litigation”
To provide facts to this so called “breaking” “top story” “news”, the Orlando Police Department is providing this information.
Yesterday, Ms. Belich replied to an email at 2:37pm, regarding an update that was sent out in reference to a traffic homicide update. Her reply to that email stated “Can you respond to the accusations in a gender and age discrimination lawsuit filed against opd by rhonda huckelberry?”
The reply to her was “In response to your question, we are not aware of a lawsuit filed at this time. However, as protocol, we do not discuss any litigation, pending or otherwise at anytime. Thank you.”
The Orlando Police Department has not been made aware of any such lawsuit at this time. In addition, MSGT Huckelberry was not “fired”. The City of Orlando will address any such accusations in a court of law, if such a suit is filed, and is permitted to be heard by the courts. Sgt. Huckelberry has a continuous employment with OPD, and is assigned to the Airport Division a supervisor.
In June of 2011, Chief Rooney mandated by directive all first responders to wear their issued vests. Policy states “the wearing of protective body armor is mandatory for all first responders while in police uniform.” There have been over 3000 documented cases where officer’s lives have been saved by wearing their vests. Chief Rooney ensures that he and his staff always work with all the men and women of OPD to ensure that they can continue working and do the job that they took a sworn oath to do. One of his top priorities is the safety and well being of the officers.
Please see the attached for a type of vest specifically designed for Cancer survivors, by a survivor of breast cancer.
--Sergeant Jim Young
Media RelationsP.O. Box 913Orlando, Florida 32801