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Workers' Comp, Paid Leave on the Table for Newtown's Officers

Newtown's board of police commissioners and union representatives have asked for changes in state laws to allow benefits and much-need time off.

 

Newtown's police officers are seeking compromises and legislation that would provide them with the support they need due to their service during and after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings.

This includes leaves of absence that would allow at least six months off with at least two-thirds of their pay, according to the Hartford Courant, which reports that the town and the police union are in negotiations to make the change. In the existing system in place in the town of Newtown, police would only get ten days of sick leave before having to use vacation days to continue receiving pay.

Then there's the issue of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

"Currently town insurance does not recognize PTSD as a reason to go out on disability," said union president and Newtown police officer Scott Ruszczyk at a Tuesday Board of Police Commissioners meeting. "I want to thank the people working to get that changed."

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a condition stemming from exposure to traumatic events; symptoms can include intrusive memories or feeling "numb." 13 police officers have been affected, and at least six were among the responders at Sandy Hook Elementary School, according to the Courant.

Newtown's Board of Police Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to ask Connecticut's legislature to change laws allowing police and other first responders to apply for benefits. 

"There's a void in workers comp laws relative to emotional injury," said commissioner Joel Faxon. "Given that fact -- and what the members of this department have done in terms of their response, and the response of schoolteachers and others at Sandy Hook, we feel it's important -- and I feel personally -- that the law is changed to address the problems that these first responders and others will encournter and have encountered."

The request reads as follows:

"Given the extraordinary effort in bravery exibited by members of the Newtown Police Department, first responders, teachers and staff of Sandy Hook, fairness and compassion dictates the workers' compensation laws of Connecticut be amended to provide appropriate benefits for all those that sustained physical or emotional injury as a consequence of their heroic efforts within the scope of their employment on and after December 14, 2012. We are available to provide all appropriate input as these issues are considered."

Officers from numerous other towns, including Brookfield, Bethel and Danbury, contributed over the holidays to allow Newtown's officers to take breaks. About 30 officers per shift spent weeks working patrol or providing presence at funerals.

"We had 60, 70, 80, 90 officers here each day. It became a monumental task," said Chief Michael Kehoe. "They all helped, and I can't thank them enough."

Police from other towns are still contributing in some cases to support Newtown police, including at schools around town, Superintendent Janet Robinson said this week.

"You may see the car at the foot of the driveway [at schools] as a vehicle from another town," Robinson said. "Our police at this point don't have the resources to do that, so the other towns are contributing."

The final concern facing the department in the coming weeks and months is its budget. As with many other offices in town, Newtown's police face an unclear financial future, with funding coming in from across the nation but with many possible expenses ahead as well.

"The budget is still open to amendment due to what actions we decide," said commissioner Paul Mangiafico. "It's not set in concrete, even though it was submitted. It can be modified up and down."

yoda January 11, 2013 at 11:20 AM
Yoda is very wise when it comes to PTSD. My close friend was handed a card! Keep in mind workers comp will only provide base pay, most Officers is Fairfield county need that overtime just to get by.
Thomas Crafts January 11, 2013 at 12:16 PM
This starts to sound like a boondoggle. 6 months? How about some in house counseling instead? And I remind Yoda that all the cops in Newtown didn't keep those kids safe.
Sd January 11, 2013 at 01:16 PM
Thomas Crafts, your words and attitude are insensitive at best. These are extraordinary issues we face in the midst of an unprecedented situation. Compassion from bystanders and exemption from "the norm" is called for on everybody's part. Please look to the leaders and volunteers of this town and the SHS community for incredible examples of both.
Victoria January 11, 2013 at 01:23 PM
Thomas, how can you be so insensitive?!?! If you don't have anything nice to say, then don't say anything at all. My town has been through enough!!
Greg Burns January 11, 2013 at 03:20 PM
It is commendable that Newtown Police provided extrodinary service and that police officers from many other towns came to the aid of Newtown police. The police did what they were hired to do and what they signed up to do, and they got paid for it. I would have gone to do it without pay. But something is beginning to smell here for monetary and political gain perhaps accross the state and nation. Politicians are jumping on making gun laws for people who obey the law. They need to jump on something because they did nothing to protect our kids. There is no securiy in a gun free zone. Put a "Gun Free Zone" sign on your front lawn. The gunman at Sandyhook got into that school in seconds. There was no direct security connection to police and no lockdown alarm in the school. For God's sake, there was not an agequate, secure front door and lock. It would take longer to break into my house than it did Sandyhook school. How well did we protect our kids - not well. How long did it take for police to get there?? Unknown! WHY?? SO what will happen when the NEXT school is attacked?. Will our kids be protected and secure. I DOUBT IT. Six month vacations for police officers and more laws for meaningless gun controls for people who obey the law will not make them safe. No gun zones will not make us safe. Like it or not - the ONLY effective security deterrant to bad people with any weapon, is good people with a better weapon to defend our kids, our public spaces and our homes.
Heather January 11, 2013 at 03:45 PM
It's my understanding the the reason PTSD is not part of workers comp because it can so easily be abused. I realize that this is not the case in this situation. I would think it would be better to consider making exceptions for these types of horrific tragedies on a case by case basis instead of changing Legislation/laws/policies to include PTSD as part of workers comp. I hate to say that it would be abused but I know it would. There has to be a way to grant these Officer's the leave they need to try to recover and cope from the horrific things that had to see. Hopefully the changes can be made to help these officers and any other officer's in the future that might have to deal with a tragedy of this magnitude.
AnotherDay January 11, 2013 at 04:16 PM
Painful to think of the children who were exposed to those scenes and are already back in their elementary school classes, working on their daily assignments.
Bill Hull January 11, 2013 at 04:39 PM
Thank God for our first responders. I applaud the efforts to get some consideration for those that suffer after the 14th. 1. Partial pay is not enough. Full pay is the right thing to do. 2. Benefits should be provided for those that have a legitimate claim, substantiated by a Doctor. 3. If legislators fail to do the right thing, can some of the generous contributions that donors made be used to financially help those that need it. 4. I've heard of people talking about first responders using this as a free ride and they "signed up" for such things when they got into the field. Makes me sick to hear such nonsense.
Tony January 11, 2013 at 05:54 PM
I am on the fence with this one. Most comments on here make sense. I would like to understand how the teachers are handing this. They are not trained to handle situations like this but for those who were in the school when this happened are they all back to teaching. Is the teachers union seeing an increase in requests for paid time off? Who are we to say these officers are not impacted. For such a unique and tragic event why not provide them with some extra time to heal. I am hearing that we have over 10MM+ in donated funds..why not allocate some of that money for the officers time off? I just don't want this to be open season on significant tax increases. If there is a new need in our town, then other things must stop...ie FFH. Allocate the funds from that mess to help offset some of the costs in 2013 and 2014. We need our town leadership to make the hard decisions and not take the easy road by raising taxes and not cutting projects and resources.
yoda January 11, 2013 at 06:38 PM
Mr. Craft, Our Officers always keep us safe!!! Let me remind you that the school system is run by your Superintendent!
Thomas Crafts January 12, 2013 at 12:14 AM
My point, Green man, is that the cops can't be everywhere, and they can't protect you or me at our houses, just fill out the reports and body bag us after the fact like those poor kids and teachers. No, if you want protection you have to arrange for it on your own. Our schools have now done that, and I approve of the response.
yoda January 12, 2013 at 01:23 AM
Thomas, The Chief cannot appoint an Officer to a school, that is the Supers choice. Being a Police Officer is the second hardest job in the world, being a parent is the hardest!!!
Scot Wilson January 13, 2013 at 03:22 AM
Unless you've worked in Emergency Response or the Military, the depth of this issue's cannot be comprehended by the average respondent to this feed. As layman, some observer's continue living in an unrealistic space, feeling Newtown's first responders are somehow different than their professional brethren who have been exposed to comparable tragedy. Others feel the magnitude of this incident is so exclusive, it requires rebalancing of workers aid support services. Thank God for our first responders. My appreciation also goes out to the professional's from other cities who stepped up to help jumpstart the recuperation process for our local service personnel. Our local neighbors working that fateful day will need shepherding for the foreseeable future but, let's face it, there were alot of people on scene that day that have to move forward in their daily lives. A balance approach is already in place in virtually every labor agreement. Many exposed to that horrific scene are using family, friend's, faith, community support and professionals to cope with this as they press on. No amount of time off will erase the memories of that day going forward. I don't know anyone who isn't irrevocably altered. Being present allows us to hold each other up. We must make sure this never happens again. That's my goal. We need to support our first responders while they are actively protecting all of us.
Eastend50 January 21, 2013 at 06:03 PM
I agree with Scott. I was on the job for 25 years and the things i saw burned razor sharp images in my mind that I still can't forget 30 years later. It hardens you up to the point where it's no good. A lot of guys I worked with would laugh and crack jokes. Not out of disrespect, but as a coping factor, otherwise you would go nuts. Our contract allowed us to accumulate sick days and most men had 100-200 days on the book. Upon retirement we could sell back half to the government. If a member was ill and used up all his sick time and vacation days, 90 percent of his co-walkers would donate some of their vacation days so the member could keep food on the table.....
yoda March 02, 2013 at 02:54 PM
Knowledge is power, educate yourself! http://www.davidlynchfoundation.org/

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