Injured police get $1.9M
BY RANDY KREHBIEL World Staff Writer
Sunday, February 12, 2012
2/12/12 at 4:29 AM
Q&A: Workers compensation
Case samples: narratives from the court files
Many firefighters injured in training
Tulsa spends $28 million on workers comp in 23 months
It should be no surprise that police accounted for the largest share of the 251 workers compensation cases reviewed by the Tulsa World, or for the largest share of disability awards - almost $1.9 million.
Police engage in all sorts of strenuous activities, in many cases over careers spanning decades.
The Tulsa World studied cases in which a workers compensation court order was issued between January 2010 and November 2011. About 45 percent of the 73 police-related cases included in the sample involved injuries suffered while pursuing or subduing suspects. These included several car wrecks and a motorcycle crash and at least one encounter with a subject "believed to be on PCP."
Another was hit by a parking lot gate.
Thirteen percent of the officers said they were injured in training. Four officers said they slipped on ice. Three said they were hurt lifting weights.
Two said they tore up a knee getting out of their cruisers. One said she was injured by the placement of her car's on-board computer.
Two former officers, including current Rogers County Sheriff Scott Walton, received disability awards for hearing loss they said was caused by exposure to gunfire, sirens and other loud noise related to their work.
TPD Capt. Jonathan Brooks said police naturally are more subject to injuries but that there may be things the department can do to cut down on them.
"These are not office jobs," Brooks said. "Our officers are required to jump and climb and sometimes to be involved in violence.
"Part of our action plan is to (identify) certain things we can do to mitigate risk. We have a lot of officers who slip and fall on ice. If there's a storm, we have to be out in it, but there might be some things we can do to be safer."
Brooks said the department is also looking for ways to make training safer.
At the same time, he said, "If you've never been in a fight, it's kind of hard to simulate that without some contact."
Some contend that city employees, and especially police officers and firefighters, routinely file workers compensation claims either just before or just after they retire. Police and firefighters, unlike other city workers, belong to statewide pension plans that allow them to retire with half-pay after 20 years and that max out at three-quarters pay after 30 years.
Sixty-eight of the 251 cases involved city employees with at least 20 years on the job.
Police officers accounted for 17 of those 68.
"In some cases, injuries aren't realized until later in life," Brooks said. "As far as a last hurrah, I haven't seen that."
Police workers compensation: By the numbers*
73 Number of cases involving police officers in which a workers compensation court order was issued between January 2010 and November 2011
1 Number of multiple claimants
29 Percent of cases against the City of Tulsa that were filed by police officers
$1,892,279.43 Total value of police claims
31 Percent of total claim value for city that came from police claims
$27,921.64 Average value of a police claim
*Numbers taken from 251 cases in which a City of Tulsa workers compensation court order was issued between January 2010 and November 2011
Randy Krehbiel 918-581-8365
Thirteen percent of the officers involved in workers compensation cases studied by the World said they were injured in training. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World file