Or­lando cop di­ag­nosed with PTSD after Pulse mas­sacre faces fir­ing

Lodi News-Sentinel - - SPORTS - By Tess Sheets

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.

JOE BUR­BANK/OR­LANDO SEN­TINEL FILE PHO­TO­GRAPH

Pho­tos and keep­sakes adorn the Pulse In­terim Memo­rial lo­cated at the Pulse night­club site south of down­town Or­lando on June 6.

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