Why is it that we don’t help so many of our brothers and sisters in blue when they need it most?
Ex-Sheriff Sergeant Jim West can still hear the heavy ‘thud’ of the metal flashlight that repeatedly smashed into his head by a suspect he and his partner were trying to bring in.
2 decades after the attack, West suffers from crippling headaches and seizures. He served his community well… so now why are county officials trying to deny his pension?
In 1997, sheriff’s deputies Jeff Warder and Jim West were attempting to wrangle a suspect into custody for violating the terms of his probation. The suspect fought back and struggle ensued. Eventually, the suspect managed to get ahold of a heavy flashlight and repeatedly swung and connected with West’s head.
“The sound was the most sickening thud I’ve ever heard in my life,” said West’s partner, Warder.
After taking heavy blow after blow to his head, West managed to get his service weapon free from his holster and fired a fatal shot into the 25-year-old suspect, killing him.
“I was able to get a shot off to kill him. It’s not what I wanted to do. It’s what happened,” West said.
West recovered and stayed on the Eaton County force, continuing his duties and eventually being promoted from sheriff’s deputy to sergeant. But more than 20 years after the violent beating West began suffering from debilitating headaches and seizures.
Since a seizure in 2017, West has not been able to work. He experiences memory loss and anxiety, often dazed.
“The sound was the most sickening thud I’ve ever heard in my life”
The Lansing State Journal reported that the Municipal Employees Retirement System had approved West’s petition for duty-related retirement in 2017.
But then the county challenged the ruling.
Even though expert doctors at both the University of Michigan and Michigan State University have said that West’s seizures are connected with the 1997 trauma.
Now West is forced to survive on Social Security and disability benefits until the situation is rectified.
“That was the only place I wanted to work. That was it. That was my dream job,” West said about joining the Eaton County force.
He has filed for a worker’s compensation suit but a county attorney referred to the painful attack as a ‘relatively minor event’.
West’s superiors even called him a good leader yet flat-out refused to put him on light duty to fulfill the next 18 months of service that would get him to his 25 years.
18 months short.
This man has served the same county for over two decades, bled for them, will suffer for the rest of his life for them, and they won’t even let him have his pension.
— Raymond E. Foster (@policeofficer) April 25, 2019
His friends and coworkers say the same.
“Jim West has given his life to the county’s sheriff office. He’s a person who cared about the office and all the people he worked with. I really hope the county does the right thing with this. He’s earned it,” Warder said.
“Give him a desk job. Give him light duty,” one said. “That would be without question.”
“He was a good leader. He looked good in a uniform. He presented himself to the public very well… Jim did a good job,” said another.
West told the Lansing State Journal that he misses the work.
“It was a great career. I miss it every day.”
Police who have been injured on duty across the country have faced similar battles. Some even went so far as to say they wish they had been killed in the line of duty because then their families would have at least gotten a proper settlement.
“I wish that when he shot me, he killed me.”
It’s a statement that I struggled to process the first time I heard it from a police officer who took six bullets in the line of duty.
It was far from the last time I heard it.
The sad truth of it is that with the dozens of LEO’s who have been shot in the line of duty that I’ve interviewed over the past six months, it’s a pretty common feeling.
During the first couple of days in the hospital, when they are barely clinging to life, they are surrounded by love and support. Local politicians rally around them. The community comes together in prayer. #BlueStrong we proclaim on Facebook.
And then the officer pulls through and everyone realizes she or he is going to survive. The bills start piling up. The worker’s comp and disability battles begin.
And everyone disappears.
The physical and emotional scars remain. But the true pain runs much deeper, as a community abandons those who made such an incredible sacrifice.
Gone is their ability to work overtime to provide for their family. In many cases, the family savings get pumped into medical bills while the bureaucrats try to find the most efficient way to pay out the least amount of money possible while still covering their asses and declaring #BlueStrong.
And the road to recovery slows.
“Had I been killed, my family would have been provided for. They would have received significant death benefits. They wouldn’t have had me as a burden. They would have grieved… but they would have moved on,” one wounded officer told me.
And then there’s the prescriptions.
“I’m going to end up overdosing on heroin one day,” another wounded officer told me.
When he saw the look of shock on my face and saw that I’d become speechless, he explained.
“I can’t make ends meet right now,” he told me. “The department is letting me go in a couple of weeks. I can’t afford to sue. My medical coverage is going to disappear. I can’t survive without the opioids right now because of the pain. So what happens when I can’t afford the prescription any more? I’m going to have no choice to turn to the streets. My kids will be fatherless within a year, because I’ve fallen through the cracks and I’m about to become a statistic in the very opioid war that I once fought.”
How is it that our country can be so great… and yet so screwed up? As my good friend Sal DeFranco, Former Navy S.E.A.L. and owner of Battle Grounds Coffee with his wife put it this way:
“We are the greatest nation in the world. We can topple governments. We can take over entire countries. We are back to back world war champions. And yet we can’t take care of our own.”
How is it that we can provide iPhones to those who don’t want to work for a living… but we can’t provide for our officers wounded in the line of duty?
How is it that we can make sure illegal immigrants get health benefits… and yet we can’t take care of the desperate health situation surrounding those who were shot protecting actual citizens?
How is it that “healthcare for all” is demanded by socialists in America… but if it’s something that supports “pigs”… it’s ok to turn away and force them and their families to suffer?
This isn’t the America I know and love.
The America that I believe in holds up those men and women when they are falling.
The patriots I know demand that we need to have the six of those who protect us and hold the Thin Blue Line.
As long as there is a single officer out there who thinks that the world – or their family – would be better off if they had died… we have failed.
And to those of you who are reading this who ARE those officers… I’ve got some tough love for you.
You WEREN’T a warrior. You ARE a warrior.
That didn’t stop when you got shot or stabbed or run over.
You don’t get to give up the fight and throw in the towel. That’s not what warriors do. What has changed is that now you have a new battle.
Now you need to fight not for society, but for your family. For what you deserve. For what THEY deserve.
The mission has changed. But it’s a mission nonetheless.
The world would not be better without you. The world is better because of you. And you need to stand and fight not just for you and your family… but for those who will come after you.
More will be hurt. More will suffer beyond words. More will be forgotten by the system. That’s why you need to rise and fight … and know that you’re not alone.
There’s a rising tide of those declaring “enough is enough”. Our family at Law Enforcement Today has your six. Who is with us?