It’s the kind of story that’s a punch in the gut to everyone in law enforcement.
For more than three years, former Orlando Police Officer Gerry Realin and the City of Orlando have been battling over a medical benefits fight after the Pulse nightclub shooting.
On Friday, an Orange County judge ordered a trial without jury to resolve it.
Realin’s pension was awarded without medical coverage for his family three years ago. This, after he was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder following his assignment to remove the dead from Pulse nightclub.
His wife, Jessica Realin, told local media that the family medical benefits cost “one-third” of the total pension benefits, roughly $1,700 a month or $23,000 a year. That’s more than five times the amount he paid before he left the department.
“Five plus doctors chosen by the city, Judge Neal Pitts, the Pension Board, the city’s life insurance company (Standard Life) and the United States Department of Education have already stated and accepted Gerry’s condition,” she said.
The status hearing before Judge Patricia Strowbridge on Friday took only five minutes.
Lakeland attorney Jeff Appel represents Gerry Realin in the case. He said this is a small part of several layers against the city. Those other layers include a workers compensation case, a civil case seeking $1 million in damages for alleged retaliation by the city and the unpaid health insurance case.
“We’re looking forward to moving the case along as the court requested,” Appel said. “We’re going to do whatever is required to protect Gerry’s interest.”
Strowbridge said during the hearing that her first available court date would be in October.
The next step is that the judge will send several dates to both sides to figure out when the trial will be held.
The city wanted a jury trial, but Attorney Marc Sugarman on Friday agreed to trial by
Appel said the city argues Realin does not meet the medical standard for catastrophic injury.
The city begs to differ. A city spokesperson made a statement to local media:
“The city of Orlando and the Orlando Police Department are committed to the health and well-being of our first responders, who bravely protect our community every day. Mr. Realin is receiving all benefits for which he is eligible.”
In a major win for wounded officers this week, a police wife just won full pensions for those injured in the line of duty in Connecticut.
Debbie Roselle is the wife of Phil, an officer who still has a long recovery ahead of him.
In September of 2017, the 30-year-veteran of the Norwalk Police Department was accidentally shot. It happened while at his precinct’s shooting range.
“It went through my arm and into my chest, where the bullet still remains,” Roselle said.
Officer Roselle is a diabetic, and his injuries were so severe he was forced to retire. Eventually his kidneys failed, and since then he’s been on dialysis until he gets a transplant.
“I saw him losing some hope and I needed to fight and I was trying to figure out what I could do,” Debbie Roselle said.
While he fought for his health, she took on a battle of her own – she fought for his compensation. She spent countless hours lobbying and testifying in front of politicians in an attempt to change Connecticut law.
“I was told from the very beginning, ‘What you’re doing is impossible. Just stop while you’re ahead,’” Debbie said.
Debbie’s goal? She wanted public safety state employees to receive their entire pension until they’re 65 if they’re forced into retirement by an injury, not the up to 75 percent that existed.
She pushed for the bill for more than a year, and it was passed on Wednesday.
“These first responders put their lives on the line every day to protect and serve us, so that we can be safe and God forbid something happens, they need to be protected,” Debbie said.
The governor still has to sign the bill into law, which is expected to happen.
Last week, Debbie shared a letter with America about the battle her family has faced. We want to share that with you again today.
Always stay on the offense. Our officers need and deserve it.
He was shot in the line of duty and became permanently disabled. Now his family feels as though they’ve been forgotten. It’s time for that to change.
To Whom It May Concern:
My name is Debbie Roselle and I am married to Officer Phil Roselle, a dedicated Norwalk Police officer who dedicated over 30 years of public service to our community.
On September 5, 2017, Phil was accidentally shot by his sergeant during an on-duty firearms training. Ever since this preventable incident occurred, Phil’s physical & mental health has been on a steady decline. Several independent doctors have concluded that because of this shooting incident, Phil has permanent damage to his dominant arm/hand and that his diabetes has been severely impacted due to the bullet still lodged in his rib cage. This is causing his kidneys to fail, creating the need for a kidney transplant. The combination of these injuries has resulted in Phil being unable to return to work and perform the duties required of a police officer.
We have two young children at home that we are trying to raise and provide the best life possible for. My children have witnessed a steady decline in their father’s health and are terrified that their father may die due to the complications from the shooting incident that in my opinion could have been prevented.
I cannot put into words what this tragic and avoidable incident has done not only to Phil, but also to my entire family. Our children have not been the same since Phil was shot. Our youngest son Ryan is 10-years-old and his brother Michael is 15. Both of our boys sleep with their father on a nightly basis in fear that they may lose their dad. Seeing my young boys cry themselves to sleep each night tears me up inside. I have reached out to many people looking for advice and help.
Through my research, I have learned that when a police officer is tragically killed in the line of duty, their surviving family members/beneficiary are entitled to statutory benefits, both Federal & State.
Sadly, though, if that same officer survives being shot, yet he/she is permanently injured, there are no benefits available. In fact, these permanently injured police officers often receive a decrease in their pay and are forced to retire and are unable to earn what they once did, to no fault of their own. Learning this information, I can’t help but to think that any officer who is lucky enough to survive a shooting incident is essentially punished for surviving. Frankly, this is unacceptable and an injustice to all that serve and protect our communities so we can all live in peace and tranquility.
Through many hours of tedious research, I came upon an organization called Violently Injured Police Officers ( V.I.P.O.) from Massachusetts (www.vipo911.org). I took it upon myself to reach out to one of the co-founders of this organization, Mario Oliveira (retired detective/Somerville PD) who was violently & permanently injured in the line of duty and now retired. Through speaking with Detective Mario Oliveira, I learned about “Special Legislation” 100% disability benefits that are/have been available to public safety personnel in the State of Massachusetts.
Over the past year, I have worked very closely with V.I.P.O co-founder Mario Oliveira to create legislation that will provide our catastrophically & permanently injured first responders with 100% disability pay rather than our current disability rate (worker’s compensation) which amounts to 66 percent of their base salary.
Connecticut Senator Robert Duff drafted our legislation and filed it at our state capitol where my family and I, along with the co-founders of V.I.P.O., testified as to the importance of our bill (S#556). Since the bill has been filed, it has passed the Senate with an overwhelmingly amount of support. The bill (#556) currently sits in the House of Representatives awaiting approval.
If the bill is passed, our State of Connecticut first responders would be eligible to receive 100% disability pay if God forbid they are catastrophically & permanently injured in the line of duty.
Since meeting V.I.P.O. co-founder Mario Oliveira, I have assisted in providing peer support to several injured police officers and their wives about the retirement process in our state and our efforts in conjunction with V.I.P.O. to bring much needed change to our state.
It’s time to protect those who put their lives on the line each day to protect us. I feel this is my life mission. We owe it to our first responders who protect our communities every day.
Retired Detective Mario Oliveira appeared on an episode of the Law Enforcement Today Radio Show to discuss how being shot six times changed his life. You can listen here.