Imagine becoming a police officer, nearly losing your life in the line of duty… then finding out your own department doesn’t have a place for you.

That’s exactly what’s happening to a cop in Portland, Oregon. 

Portland Police Officer Chris Barker is struggling to find support after a line of duty injury left him unable to perform the tasks needed to be a valuable member of the force. But now he’s being told that the department doesn’t even have a desk job for him.

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He was willing to sacrifice everything for his department. Now it seems as though they’re abandoning him. (Chris Barker)

 

The Shooting

Flashback to 2001. Officer Barker was called out to a call where a man reportedly grabbed a female in an inappropriate way.  

But when he arrived at the scene, he was shot by a mentally ill man with a gun. The bullet ripped through Barker’s hand and traveled all the way up his arm to its final resting place – his bicep.

Barker and another officer managed to shoot and kill the suspect, but the incident would change the officer’s life forever. 

 

The Aftermath

Since the incident, Barker has undergone countless surgeries, including having nerves taken from his leg and put into his arm. Even though doctors were able to save his arm, the veteran officer will never be able to live his life the same way. 

Incredibly, Officer Barker returned to work not long after the shooting, but doctors warned him that he was on borrowed time as the injuries would continue to worsen as years passed.

Barker was presented with the Police Star award from his department less than a year following the shooting “in recognition of personal courage and devotion to duty”, according to the Portland Tribune.

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Barker was shot in the arm, leading to life-changing circumstances. (Chris Barker)

 

The beloved officer continued to serve the Portland force and consistently made his name known across the city. In 2009, Barker was presented with the Medal of Valor after he was involved in another shooting.

But as the doctors predicted, the officer’s injuries started to make their presence known. Barker is in a state of constant pain in his arm, and due to the extensive nerve damage, often feels prickly sensations throughout. 

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A cop was injured in the line of duty. Now his department is forcing him out.

 

Barker has tried everything for the pain, including prescription medication, physical therapy and more. At this point, he says, it wakes him up every single night.

Because of the pain, Barker has been forced to use all of his sick time. Doctors told the officer that he needed to undergo another surgery – one that would remove scar tissue from his arm. Without it, he wouldn’t be able to fulfill his duties as a patrol officer.

But the department refuses to cover the operation.

Now it appears as though he’s going to be forced out — losing the full pension that he would get if he remained on the force until 2021.

Not wanting to back out early, Barker applied for a desk job. 

The department denied him, saying that he used too much sick time. Barker fired back, telling the department he wouldn’t need to use nearly as much since he would be on light duty. 

So essentially his options are:

  • Retire early, forfeiting everything he had worked for
  • Stay on patrol as long as he can stand it, potentially worsening his condition

Officials say that he is currently answering phones for the department, but has to make his decision to either return to patrol by November, or choose an early retirement. 

Barker said it would’ve been better for him if he had been convicted of a DUI instead of being involved in a shooting, as the punishment for that crime is being restricted to desk duty indefinitely. 

Barker recalls the moment he was sitting in his hospital bed when he was told not to worry.

“You will always be taken care of, don’t you worry,” Barker remembers department heads telling him. “They made the same promise to my family.”

Now he’s calling upon the Independent Police Review board to step in and help give him a last shot.

“I certainly can’t help the fact I got ambushed and shot, and further shot and killed the suspect … I pay for that every day of my life!” Barker said in a Facebook post about the situation. “I have done nothing but stand up for myself.”

Other cops are also standing up in solidarity with Barker, noting that this is far from the first time a wounded officer has had their department turn their backs on them.

“We don’t expect to be carried on the shoulders of our brethren,” said Portland Police Officer Stuart Palmiter. “We just want to be taken care of when we get hurt. We just want to still be productive, get to our retirement and retire in good standing.”

A Portland Police Bureau spokesperson defended the department’s handling of injured officers.

“The care of our officers is a concern and one of many reasons for the creation of a wellness officer position and our continued investment in the Employee Assistance Program,” said Sgt. Kevin Allen. “There is a process in place for those who are injured and the Fire and Police Disability and Retirement fund is a resource for those who are injured on the job. If a sworn member of the Portland Police Bureau is unable to perform their job duties, the Police Bureau and the city have a number of processes available to evaluate and work with the member, including processes in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and other laws.”

 

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