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."