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Sec. 1 Purpose
The purpose of this policy is to provide guidance for The University of Texas System Administration and System institutions concerning the granting of mental health leave for commissioned Peace Officers who experience a traumatic event in the course of their employment.
Sec. 2 Principles
The University of Texas System recognizes the importance of supporting and retaining qualified Peace Officers who experience a traumatic event in the course and scope of their employment. This policy applies to commissioned Peace Officers employed by The University of Texas System Administration or System institution.
Sec. 3 Mental Health Leave
University of Texas System Administration and each System institution that employs Peace Officers shall modify its existing policies and procedures to create a process for granting and administering mental health leave that meets the requirements set by Subchapter A-1 of Chapter 614 of the Texas Government Code and this policy, including:
3.1 Eligibility. Any individual employed as a Peace Officer by U. T. System Administration or a System institution is eligible to request mental health leave in writing within thirty days of experiencing a traumatic event in the course and scope of their employment.
3.2 Traumatic Event. A Traumatic Event is an event or series of extraordinary events that occurs in the scope of the officer’s employment and causes significant stress likely to impact the mental health or mental wellbeing of a Peace Officer experiencing the event. Traumatic Events include, but are not limited to:
b) Fatal Accident
d) Line of duty death or suicide of a department employee
e) Use of force resulting in death or serious bodily injury
f) In-custody death
g) Any incident in which the officer, while acting in a law enforcement capacity, suffers serious bodily injury or threatened serious bodily injury by another person(s)
h) Participation in recovery efforts related to a natural disaster such as a hurricane, flood, fire, or earthquake
i) Participation in response and recovery efforts related to a terroristic attack
3.3 Components of mental health leave. A Peace Officer on mental health leave shall, for the entire period in which he or she is on Mental health leave:
a) be placed on mental health leave status and receive his or her regular salary;
b) remain eligible to participate in, and to have his or her eligible dependents continue to participate in, the University of Texas System Employee Group Insurance Plan (“EGIP”) under the applicable terms and conditions of the EGIP applicable to active employees;
c) not be required to take annual vacation, sick leave, or state compensatory time while on mental health leave status; and
d) be subject to any other rights and duties applicable to an employee on mental health leave status under applicable laws and System and institutional policies.
3.4 Duration. For each traumatic event, mental health leave may be granted via the process noted below for up to three (3) work days. The employee may be granted additional days if documented justification is provided to the institution Chief of Police (as applicable) or the Director of Police (as applicable). The following will suffice as documented justification when provided to the Director of Police (as applicable) or the institution Chief of Police (as applicable):
a) Physician note
b) Therapist/Counselor note
c) Peer Support Team recommendation
d) The Institution Chief of Police in consultation with the Director of Police has determined the need for additional days
e) The UTSP Medical Director in consultation with the employee and the institution Chief of Police (as applicable) or the Director of Police (as applicable).
3.5 Request and Approval Process. An officer’s request for mental health leave will be treated with discretion, professionalism, respect, and dignity through the following processes:
a) An officer that experienced a traumatic event may request the use of mental health leave.
b) The request shall be typed and emailed to the Chief of Police via the chain of command or submitted to the Director of Police if the involved officer is a member of the Office of Director of Police staff.
c) Upon receipt of a written mental health leave request, the Chief of Police or their designee or the Director of Police (as applicable) will notify the institution’s (or System) Human Resources Department.
d) The Director of Police (as applicable), institution Chief of Police (as applicable) or their designee will:
i. review the request,
ii. determine if the request qualifies for mental health leave,
iii. approve or deny the request, and
iv. set the length of leave
v. render a decision on the granting of the leave no later than 24 hours following the receipt of the request by the Director of Police, the institution Chief of Police or their designees.
vi. notify Human Resources of the determination.
e) To the extent practicable, an employee’s request for mental health leave and leave status, if granted, will not be shared outside of the chain of command, Office of Director of Police, the Office of General Counsel and Human Resources.
3.6 Resources. The Chief of Police or their designee, or Director of Police, will provide the requesting officer with the following resources within 24 hours of receiving a leave request:
a) Employee Assistance Program resources
b) UT System Peer Support contact
3.7 Administrative Leave. When an officer is placed on administrative leave after a critical incident, that time is not considered mental health leave. It is understood that following a critical incident, the officer(s) involved will be placed on administrative leave per UT System Police Department Administrative Investigations Policy 605. The decision to place an officer on administrative leave consistent with UTSP Policy 605 is separate and apart from an officer making a request for mental health leave. A request for mental health leave can follow administrative leave but administrative leave is not a substitute for mental health leave. Similarly, mental health leave can be requested and granted in the absence of administrative leave. For the involved officer on administrative leave, he/she may choose to request mental health leave once all immediate steps are completed in the administrative/criminal investigation or at the conclusion of the administrative leave, prior to returning to full active duty.
3.8 Workers’ Compensation. Mental health leave, as authorized by Section 614.015 of the Texas Government Code and this policy, is entirely separate and independent of workers’ and peace officer injury leave compensation under UTS 185, Peace Officer Injury Leave. A request for mental health leave does not trigger any reporting requirement related to workers compensation claims. Nothing in this policy limits or prohibits a peace officer’s right to file a workers’ compensation claim.
3.9 Reporting Responsibilities. A supervisor who becomes aware of behavioral changes in an officer involved in a traumatic event should strongly recommend to the officer that he or she seek mental health leave and/or the assistance of a physician, mental health professional or UT System Peer Support. The supervisor should monitor the employee and the concern expressed to ensure that there is support and intervention as needed. The institution Chief of Police (as applicable) or the Director of Police (as applicable) shall be notified of such concerns.
Peace Officer – an employee of a System institution or the Office of Director of Police who is commissioned to serve as a peace officer under Article 2.12, Code of Criminal Procedure and Section 51.203, Texas Education Code.
Mental Health Professional – a licensed social or mental health worker, counselor, psychotherapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist.
Peer Support Team - Team of peer support members and team lead. An organized approach to support police department personnel who may be dealing with high stress events in their professional and/or personal lives. The goal of the peer support team is to assist and/or mitigate long-term effects of stress.