Gearing Up - August 2016
As an association of some 38,000 adventure-seeking members, USPA will occasionally need to discipline an individual by suspending or revoking that person’s license, rating or membership. Section 1-6 of the USPA Governance Manual spells out the due process afforded members in these situations. It also lists the "seven deadly sins" that garner attention and possible discipline.
For instance, inadvertently busting a Basic Safety Requirement won’t bring action, but willful, flagrant or continual BSR violations will. So will performing a negligent skydiving act that imperils others or engaging in any conduct as a skydiver that brings public contempt. Are you tempted to falsify a license or rating application or forge an instructor’s signature? That will bring disciplinary action, as well.
For decades, USPA’s disciplinary process hinged entirely on its Regional Directors—those 14 board members elected by the members in each of USPA’s 14 regions. They had full autonomy to investigate all allegations and determine if disciplinary action was warranted. The problems with this system were numerous. Many times, Regional Directors chose not to investigate even serious actions, conducted only cursory investigations or recommended slaps on the wrist for flagrant acts. With 14 different adjudicators, disciplinary actions were inconsistent across the 14 regions. A member’s act in one region would result in a warning while another member’s similar act in a different region would result in a suspended rating or membership. Accusations of favoritism or retribution were common. Actual suspensions or revocations by USPA averaged a total of only two per year.
That all changed in 2013 when the board revised Section 1-6 and set up a Disciplinary Group (since renamed the Compliance Group) of three appointed board members. Now the Compliance Group, along with the relevant Regional Director, receives and reviews allegations of misconduct and determines as a group whether disciplinary action is warranted. If so, USPA’s Executive Committee reviews the case and makes the final decision. At the start of disciplinary actions, accused members can request a hearing and provide any evidence they want; at the end, they can appeal the decision and bring their cases to the full board for review and vote.
Three years into the new process, the Compliance Group has discussed 42 allegations that resulted in 22 disciplinary actions. Five tandem instructors received sanctions for unsafe acts, which included low turns. Three examiners garnered suspensions for conducting courses that were less than professional. Three jumpers had their PRO ratings suspended for jumping through clouds. Three members were disciplined for falsified or forged applications. Drug and alcohol abuse brought two rating suspensions and a revocation. And two instructors were suspended for sexual harassment charges.
USPA dismissed 20 allegations for acts that it judged not willful, flagrant or continuous or when the preponderance of evidence did not justify a suspension or revocation. In many cases, the member received counseling about the matter, which resulted in a better understanding of USPA’s expectations.
No one on the board or staff likes dealing with issues of misconduct, but with the new Compliance Group approach, skydivers should now understand that USPA is serious about skydivers complying with the few requirements and expectations the association sets down. Those requirements and expectations are there to help minimize incidents and injuries while boosting public and government perceptions of our sport. That’s in line with USPA’s motto: Supporting safe skydiving and those who enjoy it.