Ottawa Citizen

New­town of­fi­cers trau­ma­tized

Po­lice union seeks ex­panded ben­e­fits

- MICHAEL MELIA

HART­FORD, Conn. • Some of the po­lice of­fi­cers who re­sponded to the school shoot­ing in New­town are so trau­ma­tized they haven’t been work­ing, but they have to use sick time and could soon be at risk of go­ing with­out a pay­cheque, a union of­fi­cial said Wed­nes­day.

The union, Coun­cil 15 of the Amer­i­can Fed­er­a­tion of State, County and Mu­nic­i­pal Em­ploy­ees, is seek­ing more gen­er­ous as­sis­tance in talks with the town’s in­surer. It is also reach­ing out to law­mak­ers and the gov­er­nor’s of­fice with pro­pos­als to mod­ify state law and ex­pand work­ers’ com­pen­sa­tion ben­e­fits for of­fi­cers who wit­ness hor­rific crime scenes.

“The in­surer for the town has taken a po­si­tion that th­ese of­fi­cers are en­ti­tled to only what the statute al­lows. Un­for­tu­nately for th­ese of­fi­cers, the statute doesn’t al­low any ben­e­fits,” said Eric Brown, an at­tor­ney for the union, which rep­re­sents nearly 4,000 of­fi­cers around Con­necti­cut.

A gun­man shot his way into Sandy Hook Ele­men­tary School on Dec. 14 and slaugh­tered 20 first-graders and six educators. The gun­man, who had also killed his mother that morn­ing, com­mit­ted sui­cide as po­lice ar­rived.

Brown said that the num­ber of of­fi­cers “crit­i­cally af­fected” by the tragedy is be­low 15 and that a small num­ber of them are not cur­rently work­ing.

A spokesman for New­town po­lice, Lt. Ge­orge Sinko, said the of­fi­cers are gen­er­ally hold­ing up well.

“A cou­ple of them are tak­ing it harder than some of the other ones,” he said. “The things that the of­fi­cers had to ex­pe­ri­ence un­der­scores the need to sup­port them in ev­ery way pos­si­ble.”

Of­fi­cials with the town’s in­surer, the Con­necti­cut In­ter­local Risk Man­age­ment Agency, did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to re­quests for com­ment.

Au­thor­i­ties say the vic­tims were shot with a high­pow­ered, mil­i­tary-style ri­fle loaded with am­mu­ni­tion de­signed to in­flict max­i­mum dam­age. All the vic­tims had been shot at least twice and some as many as 11 times.

In the past, ad­vo­cates have pushed to change the statutes on work­ers’ com­pen­sa­tion, which in­clude pro­vi­sions for of­fi­cers who suf­fer men­tal im­pair­ment as the re­sult of us­ing or be­ing sub­jected to deadly force — but not for those who wit­ness crime scenes with mass ca­su­al­ties.

Con­cerns about the po­ten­tial cost to cities and towns have been an ob­sta­cle, but the is­sue is likely to resur­face in the next leg­is­la­tion ses­sion, said state Rep. Stephen Dar­gan, a West Haven Demo­crat who is co-chair­man of the leg­is­la­ture’s pub­lic safety com­mit­tee.

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