In response to Southern California police officers being denied injury benefits for wounds they sustained in the Las Vegas mass-shooting, an Anaheim state assemblyman is proposing legislation to require compensation for officers hurt off duty while responding to out-of-state crimes.
The Orange County Register reports that Assemblyman Tom Daly, D-Anaheim, plans to introduce legislation “to eliminate any ambiguity in the law” after Orange County rejected workers’ compensation claims last week from four of its deputies injured in the Las Vegas shooting.
Daly believes California law already requires cities and counties to pay those benefits. But Orange County counsel Leon Page believes the state’s labor code clearly forbids benefit payments for injuries off-duty officers sustain outside California, while officials in Los Angeles County say state law is vague on the issue.
If Daly’s idea becomes law, it could put taxpayers on the hook for additional bills for long-term medical care and disability payments.
More than 200 California police officers were attending a country music show on Oct. 1 when Stephen Paddock fired into the festival crowd, killing 58 people and wounding more than 500.
During the shooting, many of those officers shifted to police mode even though they were in Las Vegas, helping people to safety, performing CPR and assisting local authorities who were trying to secure the area. Some California officers were shot while responding, and others say they have developed PTSD from the incident.
Since then, jurisdictions that employ those injured officers, including Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino and Orange counties, have faced questions about whether they are required or even allowed to pay for the long-term medical treatment, time off, and other benefits that might come to some officers if they’re issued worker’s compensation.
The state’s labor code is clear that police officers are owed workers’ compensation benefits if they intervene in a crime anywhere in California while off duty and become injured. Daly’s bill, which he could introduce before the end of the year, will ask the legislature to clarify that the existing law also covers out-of-state, off-duty incidents.
Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer believes Daly’s legislation could apply retroactively to help the officers injured in Las Vegas if the bill seeks only to clarify the intent of the current law rather than to change it or create a new law.
Los Angeles County is considering whether to grant or deny claims by two sheriff’s deputies shot at the festival, and a county official said he expects the issue to result in litigation. In San Bernardino County, which employs 11 deputies who attended the festival, including Sgt. Brad Powers, who was shot in the leg in Las Vegas, the deputies’ union has initiated talks with the sheriff’s department to advocate that Powers be treated as an on-duty injury.
The Orange County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to consider a resolution toward creating a policy to provide paid time off for off-duty employees who are wounded while trying to save lives in out-of-state “mass casualty” events. Dominguez said the sheriff’s union remains concerned that the plan wouldn’t cover the long-term medical care.