My Two Census

Formerly the non-partisan watchdog of the 2010 US Census, and currently an opinion blog that covers all things political, media, foreign policy, globalization, and culture…but sometimes returning to its census/demographics roots.

Daily Sound Off: Census Bureau refuses to protect employees

Here’s today’s Daily Sound Off…However, I will say that in my personal dealings with Mr. Le, he has been cordial, respectful, and helpful. I am not sure if it is is his responsibility as a media specialist or the responsibility others in management positions to deal  with these issues:

I am a crew leader in Oakland CA.
To date, crimes have been committed against two of my employees, including assault with a deadly weapon and criminal threats.

As a crew leader, I have had to fight with the Oakland Police Department to ensure that the officers take reports on these crimes and report them to the District Attorney’s Office.

I reported the previous assault to my FOS and to management. To date, no one at the LCO has assisted in helping the harmed enumerator. I also reported the assault that occurred earlier tonight, but I don’t expect the LCO to help me.

This evening, I attempted to reach out to Sonny Le, the regional media specialist for the U.S. Census.  I explained that my enumerators were unsafe and that I needed his assistance in spreading the word to the community that residents must cooperate with the census and refrain from threatening enumerators.

Mr. Le was abrupt, rude, disrespectful and condescending.  He said he “doesn’t answer to me” and, in essence, threatened me with retaliation for daring to speak to him about what is happening to my crew.

Now I understand why the residents of Oakland think it’s OK to physically threaten the enumerators.  The LCO and the Regional Census staff have, through inaction, allowed this conduct to continue.

Here’s Mr. Le’s profile:

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19 Responses to “Daily Sound Off: Census Bureau refuses to protect employees”

  1. enum across the bay Says:

    I sure hope they take notice, and some action is taken. Hope your enumerators are safe and OK. Oakland seems like it would be a tough place to enumerate.

  2. root beer float Says:

    No, the Census Bureau will not help or compensate workers who have been harmed or killed. Case in point, Bill Sparkman (the Kentucky Census Worker).

  3. enumawa Says:

    I thought the Sparkman case was a fraud?

  4. Dairyland CL Says:

    They officially called it suicide. Maybe, maybe not.

  5. Insider Says:

    Bill Sparkman was a Field Rep from the survey side of the census (a Regional Office employee vs. an RCC employee.)

  6. pranita veeria Says:

    “Mr. Le was abrupt, rude, disrespectful and condescending. He said he “doesn’t answer to me” and, in essence, threatened me with retaliation for daring to speak to him about what is happening to my crew.’

    The US Census…..don’t miss it !!!!!

  7. just an enumerator Says:

    The Census Bureau does not care about a worker’s personal safety.

  8. Says:

    Sue ‘em. Sue the b*&^%%rds. I was an enumerator in Oakland and I was threatened by one apartment manager who said he would call the police on me for trying to do my job. When I reported the building as inaccessible and dangerous to enumerate, they just told me to find the owner.
    If intimidation is the only thing they know or respond to-sue ‘em.

  9. PM Says:

    Mr. Le, as many others, is on his own course, it seems- thanks to the stellar planning by Census. I bothered to talk with him once and was summarily dismissed. He gets to jump into any public-view fray and run interference, so he might be a little frazzled by now. Also in Oakland was an enumerator blowing a police bust-about-to-be by insisting that he was on federal business and had every reason to approach the address in question. And Mr. Sparkman… a self-carving suicide sounds more like some South American tyrant general/president’s story…

    Yes, Oakland is dynamic to work. I think it’s more knives than as in Yuba City. Maybe beatings too. Whatever is quick, brutal and ugly, Oaktown will give it to you. There’s more to “hard to count” than you might think!

  10. Ex-IT Says:

    Assaults and violent threats are occurring far more frequently than media reports would suggest. In some communities it is at least weekly and almost daily. Local law enforcements, particularly in “Tea Party” land, seems to be extremely uncooperative and have not only failed to make arrests, but openly supported residents who have not only made armed threats, but discharged firearms at enumerators or their vehicles.

  11. CLA Dave Says:

    If it is unsafe, send enumerators out in pairs and make sure at least one has a cell phone to call 911.

  12. HermHollerith Says:

    What a lawless land ours has become!

  13. Stacy Says:

    You are having some rough experiences and I understand why you are so upset. I also agree with you that law enforcement should be very responsive to these issues.

    That said, you’re taking out your experiences on a good person, with a tough job, who communicates to the media and has had all his team (including me) do what we can to try to get messaging out there to help keep enumeration safe, smooth and understood. Clearly, it doesn’t always work and there are still law-breakers out there, who will do what they do, no matter what the press and communicators say.

    Are you aware that Sonny Le organized press conferences at the start of the door-knocking operation in all the states he oversees, to communicate to people how to identify a census worker and letting them know they are your neighbor and you should treat them as such? And that he had his entire team re-send those messages throughout the operation?

    You are justifiably fired up, but I have worked for Sonny a while and it takes a LOT of pushing before he pushes back. He is a stellar, hard-working, conscientious man, despite the fact that he has severely offended you.

    Don’t blame “the man” for the ignorance of some people out there, who are breaking the law by threatening you or other good people working to help count the country.

  14. anonymous too Says:

    Sending enumerators in pairs and having cell phones handy to call 911? This works 95% of the time. However, I have enumerated in high-crime areas and some people will attack 2 or more enumerators. I have enumerated in extreme rural areas with no cell phone towers! Hardly any people, just farmland – cell phone useage one hour away! This was scary!

  15. Finally! Says:

    Ex-IT, I agree with you. Now, in “Tea Party Land” don’t forget rocks being thrown at census workers and their cars.

  16. Phillip Says:

    Ex-it, and Finally, lets not be divisive. What does “Tea Party land” have to do with anything? Oakland is not AT ALL Tea Party land BTW. If we make any of this about politics, it really drives away would-be supporters. We need to unite to voice outrage about how Census workers are being treated, not make yourself feel good bashing political opponents.

  17. Ex-IT Says:

    Phillip, I am speaking from experience from enumerators working from our LCO. It’s not Oakland – It contains a number of very right-wing mostly rural communities. In area where there is high anti-government paranoia, encouraged by certain politicians and right-wing media figures, it is way more dangerous for Census work than even the worst crime infested urban areas. And forget getting any help from the police in those areas.

    Go to a “Tea Party” rally and tell people you work for the Census Bureau – you’ll find out just how hostile it can get.

  18. Right-Wing Census Paranoia: Bachmann, Beck, Fox News, and More | Says:

    [...] My Two Census » Blog Archive » Daily Sound Off: Census Bureau … [...]

  19. jack bradbury Says:

    wow……I’m coming to the party late, but this sounds like a tempest in a tea pot. I’ve worked 5 operations for the Census and CCM. All operations were extremely supportive of dangerous situations and threats. I would not classify an apartment manager saying they are going to call the police on you a threat. I’d just say, “Thank you for your time.” Move on and have letters of compliance sent. If the manager is still uncooperative I’d involve the Crew Leader and or FOS. Threats are more implied physical or verbal abuse issues and the Census goes out of it’s way to protect staff from these. Sounds to me like you overreacted and didn’t get the response you wanted.
    I was sent to Alaska during NRFU as a Crew Leader and dealt with Refusals for about 75% of my job. There were angry, upset people who were sick of Census people coming around. No threats, and for 99% of the cases after you showed some understanding, the cases were completed.
    I’d have to give the Census high grades on worker safety and following through in backing up enumerators that had threat or dangerous situation issues.