Aaron Manning, a former Little Rock Police Officer turned 911 dispatcher, was fired after he decided to self-quarantine following events in which a colleague had knowingly exposed themselves to coronavirus, and refused to stay home.
Manning served 23 years on the force, choosing to become a 911 dispatcher after his retirement. His explained his decision, "Every opportunity you have to help someone out makes you feel better as a person."
However, in March, one of his coworkers flew to Houston and drove back with a relative who had been on a cheap cruise after people had already began getting sick on ships.
Speaking to KATV, Manning explained that he and some colleagues had tried to talk to the co-worker about taking the trip as they would be in a car for seven hours with a person who may have been exposed to the virus on the ship.
Manning spoke to his supervisor about the situation, and he was informed that his co-worker would not be required to self-quarantine before returning to his duties.
Manning, the sole caretaker of his elderly parents, was not willing to risk exposing his parents to the virus, so he told his supervisors that he would be self-quarantining, and even offered to use his sick leave or go on unpaid leave.
He said, "My mother is terminally ill with congestive heart failure, so if she got anything that would be the end for her. And my father is 75 years old, so to me it was an unnecessary risk."
He informed his supervisors about his plan to self-quarantine, and he was warned that he would face disciplinary action.
Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott, Jr. expressed that Manning would not face any action: "There's no disciplinary action being faced at this point in time. We have visited with the Arkansas Department of Health and we understand there is no member of the Little Rock Police Department that has contracted COVID-19."
According to Manning’s attorney, Scott Poynter, when he got back from work after the 14-day self-quarantine, Little Rock Police Chief Keith Humphrey and Captain Marcus Paxton told him that he had been fired.
Poynter said, "There was certainly a lot of other things they could have done. He didn't do anything to put anybody in danger obviously. And, he didn't do anything that caused, as far as we can tell, any harm to the department. When we were communicating with them that he was going to have to quarantine, they never said this is going to cause irreparable harm to the department or this is going to cause problems with the shift. None of that ever occurred.”
However, the city denied the events as they had been presented. “As to any specific Division of the Little Rock Police Department, no one has been denied sick leave, based upon known contact with a person who tested positive, or based upon a request from a medical professional," the city said in a statement to KATV.