Permanent Injuries, Are You Prepared?

Over the years I received many different medals and commendations for my service in the Baltimore Police Department. At the time all the medals seemed so very important. Truth is that they were and still are a source of pride. It is an honor to be recognized by your peers, especially when it is a family of police officers that you have the utmost respect for.

I was awarded the Silver Star, multiple Bronze Stars, numerous regular commendations and a couple of unit citations. These are in addition to commending letters from the D.E.A., Maryland State Police and Baltimore County Police Department. I haven’t seen any of those medals or letters in many years.

However there are two medals, or to be more accurate two pieces of metal that I am aware of everyday. I wear them 24 hours a day, seven days per week, 365 days a year and will do so for the rest of my life. I have two surgical steel plates in my right wrist and hand. I jokingly call them my Baltimore-body-jewelry and the surgical scars are my Baltimore-street-tattoos. They were earned during a violent arrest. As a result, the injuries, multiple surgeries and resulting steel plates ended my career after just more than 11 years.

The disability pension will take care of everything, right?

My right wrist and the base of my right thumb are fused and locked into place. I was retired at the ripe-old-age of 33, because of a line of duty, permanent injury. In our Department it is referred to as, “Sixty-six and two-thirds,” meaning you receive 66.66 percent of your pay. I’m classified as physically disabled. I don’t like it, nor do I like to think of myself that way. And most people that look at me would never guess. My wife often forgets that fact until I can’t grab or hold something due to my lack of mobility.

There are those that mistakenly thought that getting the “sixty-six and two-thirds” percent pension would mean living on easy street. I used to be one of those people. I’m very fortunate to have survived that violent attack and am grateful that I can still work. I work in a field where my physical disability isn’t a factor and the job is not physically demanding. Many of my Baltimore police brothers and sisters that are retired on “sixty-six and two-thirds” are not as fortunate. Due to their injuries they are not able to work, or don’t have another source of income and are barely making it month to month.

There are a few reasons why the pension isn’t enough. First and foremost, the city of Baltimore increased our health insurance premiums so they are now about a third of our pension. I could go on about our pension system problems, but don’t want to bore you with the details.

When I was still on the job, most of us feared for our family if we were killed in the line of duty. I still mourn for all those that we have lost and pray for their families. The sad truth is my family would have been taken care of financially much better if I had been killed.

How many of us, especially those still on the job have prepared for the financial welfare of their family in the event of severe, or lifelong injury?

Consider these facts

A total of 1,512 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty during the past 10 years, an average of one death every 63 hours or 151 per year, according to the National Law Enforcement Officer Memorial Fund.

An average of 14,233 police officers a year are injured as a result of assaults. For many, those injuries are permanent and disabling.

Of the 49,851 officers who were assaulted in 2013, 14,565 (29.2 percent) sustained injuries, according to FBI statistics.

In 2014, of the 48,315 officers assaulted while performing their duties, 28.3 percent were injured, we will use the 13,673 from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report.

There have been 51,548 assaults against law enforcement officers in 2015, resulting in 14,453 injuries, according to NLEOMF.

What can you do?

If you know a retired injured – wounded officer, spend time with them, talk with them and let them know that they are not alone. Check with a qualified insurance agent or financial planner to make sure you and your family will be provided for in the event of a catastrophic injury. Don’t assume that your department will take care of you financially! For more information on what you can do to help wounded officers, or to get more information for you, please check out The Wounded Officers Initiative.

(X-ray photos are not the actual x-rays of my right hand and are meant for illustration only. X-ray photos provided by   www.orthoinfo.aaos.org and www.mikehayton.com.)