Orlando cop diagnosed with PTSD after Pulse massacre faces firing
ORLANDO, Fla. — An officer diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder after responding to the massacre at Pulse nightclub could be fired by the Orlando Police Department on Friday, as she awaits a decision on her request to retire.
In an Oct. 24 memo to OPD Chief Orlando Rolon obtained by the Orlando Sentinel, Officer Alison Clarke pleaded with him to hold off on firing her until the pension board can weigh in on her case.
“Please take my request under consideration, and allow me to complete this emotionally difficult separation from my department and my career as a law enforcement officer as a retirement and not a termination,” she wrote
In an joint statement Tuesday, OPD and the city of Orlando didn’t address Clarke’s looming termination, but praised her as having “served the City of Orlando and its residents with the pride, courage, and commitment that our officers are known for” and pledged to “continue to work with and support” her.
The pension board is expected to weigh in on Clarke’s case in January. Being fired, rather than allowed to leave the agency through retirement, would not prevent her from being approved for a disability pension later.
Clarke, who has worked for the department nearly 16 years, was told last month that she will be fired Friday, when her retirement application will have been pending for 180 days, the amount of time allowed by the agency’s collective bargaining agreement before the agency must fire an officer.
In the memo to Rolon, Clarke said there were delays in completing her paperwork that were out of her control, such as trouble scheduling medical exams with the pension board and getting her records reviewed and compiled by the police union.
Clarke is the second OPD officer diagnosed with PTSD following the Pulse shooting who has sought disability retirement and was given a termination notice in the process.
Michael Napolitano, who took a bullet to his Kevlar helmet from gunman Omar Mateen, was also given notice of his termination in September while he waiting for a medical exam.
He was eventually granted retirement before his termination, after officials worked to expedite the appointment and bring his case in front of the pension board.
Clarke also pleaded with Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer to intervene in her firing, saying in an email to him last week that he has “spoken publicly on the need to support and take care of our first responders.”
Clarke, who is one of OPD’s LGBT liaisons, has worked in an alternative duty position at OPD since February 2018 after she suffered a “PTSD-related extreme anxiety attack” while trying to apprehend a suspect that month, she wrote in a memo to then-Chief John Mina, asking him for a light-duty position.
Her distress and ensuing “hypervigilance” was a result of her experience during the Pulse massacre, the murder of OPD Lt. Debra Clayton months later and the culmination of her “extensive time in patrol,” she wrote to Mina.
Photos and keepsakes adorn the Pulse Interim Memorial located at the Pulse nightclub site south of downtown Orlando on June 6.