Prior to 2018, the Orlando Police Department used to have a policy that allowed injured officers to have positions in a “light duty” capacity, some indefinitely, in order to stay on the force to eventual retirement.
When Orlando Rolon was promoted to Chief in 2018, all of that changed.
Now, an officer who had responded to the Pulse Nightclub Shooting that took place in 2016 is slated to lose her job.
Many officers who had responded to the Pulse Night Club shooting (with very good reason) are suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Officer Alison Clarke is on of those officers.
She responded the night a gunman entered Pulse, which was described as “Orlando’s Hottest Gay Bar”, and unleashed a deadly attack against those inside.
When the assault was finally brought to an end, forty-nine club goers had been shot and killed by the gunman, fifty more were wounded, and the gunman was shot and killed by police after a hostage situation.
Even after that horrific day, Officer Clarke continued to work as an officer, at full duty capacity, responding to calls on the road. That was until a call in January of 2017 which she responded to, that ultimately took the life of her Sergeant, Debra Clayton.
Clark was responding to Walmart, after her Sergeant who had been attempting to arrest a wanted murder suspect, had called for backup to her location. Clarke told WMFE news in 2018:
“I had just started southbound when she came up on the air and you could hear the gunshots in the background.”
After arriving on scene, it was apparent that Sgt. Clayton had been shot by the suspect, who had fled in a vehicle after shooting Clayton four times.
Clarke told the news station:
“She was my sergeant. I needed to be by her side and help her. So I must have dropped the crime scene tape and ran over and bent down and held her hand and tapped her leg and talked to her and told her that we were here and she was gonna be OK.”
Sadly though, Clayton would not be ok, and was pronounced dead later that morning.
Even after losing her sergeant, Clarke continued to work, but the next time she needed to remove her gun from its holster during a call, she was unable to compose herself after that incident, and knew that she needed to seek help. Clarke sought treatment and was ultimately diagnosed with PTSD. At this point, the department placed her on light duty so she could seek the much-needed treatment she was seeking for PTSD.
At the time this all happened Rolon, was the Deputy Chief, and he had reportedly told Clarke:
“Timetables on me. Whenever I’m ready to put a uniform back on and go back to work, I’ll be transferred to the airport and I’ll finish my career working at the airport.”
Well, that’s not what happened. When Rolon was promoted to the position of Chief in 2018, he removed the practice of allowing officer to remain on permanent light duty indefinitely, and now Clarke will be fired on Friday November 8th because of it.
Media outlets are reporting:
“Rolon and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer declined interview requests for this story. But in a joint statement, they said Clarke stepped up on the night of Pulse and “bravely carried out her duties to help us further protect our Orlando community against horrific acts of violence.”
Yet, here she is, facing the prospect of losing her job, and having no way to support herself.
The police department did make a statement regarding removing the light duty stating:
“Eliminating permanent light duty will put more officers on the streets patrolling.”
Source say that:
“Clarke is applying for a disability pension for PTSD. But the earliest Clarke will get a hearing is in January or February of next year.”
However, as Clarke will be fired Friday, it will leave her without a paycheck for two to three months.
Clarke wrote a pleading letter to Rolon asking him to delay her firing or to allow her to separate from the department in a different manner. In part the letter she wrote included a plea stating:
“Allow me to complete this emotionally difficult separation from my department and my career as a law enforcement officer as a retirement and not a termination.”
Sources say that:
“If her pension is approved, she would be eligible for back-pay. And there is precedent for an Orlando police officer to get a disability pension for post-traumatic stress disorder.”
However, this isn’t the first time the Orlando police department has done wrong by other brave officers that responded to the Pulse nightclub shooting.
LET brought you stories earlier this year about two other officers who were treated unfairly by the department after their response to the mass shooting.
An officer who was shot in the head while responding to the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando is being told he’s facing termination, according to a report from ABC 9.
Mike Napolitano narrowly escaped the night with his life. He says he owes it all to his ballistic helmet, which stopped a bullet from killing him.
But since Napolitano hasn’t been back to duty since the attack, he’s being told that he’s going to be let go from the department. Orlando state policy gives officers a set amount of time to return to work following an event like this… and Napolitano’s time has run out.
Three years ago, Napolitano and fellow officers confronted Pulse mass shooter Omar Mateen as he appeared in a hole in the club made by the SWAT team in order to rescue hostages.
When Mateen appeared in that hole, he and officers exchanged heavy rounds of fire. Napolitano was hit, but the helmet saved his life.
The officers were able to take down Mateen, but not before he had killed nearly 50 people in his vicious assault.
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ABC 9 reported that it’s been three years, and still Napolitano has not been medically cleared or told he was permanently not fit to return. He took another position in alternative duty, where officers typically remain for a year.
Hanging in limbo, Napolitano got the news that his time might be up.
Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolon said that he made sure Napolitano got a heads-up call before it happened.
Rolon said he that while understands that the situation is difficult because of the fact that Napolitano was shot by a domestic terrorist, the city policy applies to every officer.
Napolitano is one of six officers facing termination over the statute. Napolitano now must figure out how to resolve the issue and either return to duty… or lose his job with the force.
The helmet that saved his life sits on display inside the Orlando Police Department.
Another officer who was one of the very first inside the Pulse nightclub on the night of the shooting has also been facing horrific battles with his own demons since the tragedy.
He sat down with Law Enforcement Today to open up about his experience.
Officer Omar Delgado will never forget the early morning hours of June 12th as an armed attacker shot up the inside of the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando.
He was one of the first on scene.
“You could smell death in there. You could taste it.”
It was utter chaos.
Last year, we had the chance to sit down with Omar during the Not All Heroes Wear Capes event at Emergency Operations Proving Grounds in Texas.
He shared his story.
As hundreds of people tried to push through the exit of the nightclub door, emergency responders were trying to get inside to stop the carnage as a gunman fired shot after shot.
“Finally I made my way inside the club. And we just all stopped.”
As he called out to the people laying on the floor inside the club, a horrifying realization came over Delgado. Those people laying on the floor… they weren’t faking it. They weren’t playing dead in hopes that the shooter would look past them and seek another target.
They were hit. They were dying, or in most cases – already gone.
The officers made their way through the dance floor, looking for the gunman, but only seeing the carnage he left behind.
“Orlando is Disney World. The happiest place on Earth. People come here just for that. And… it wasn’t that. It was one of the worst massacres that occurred on U.S. soil.”
But then suddenly, movement. Some of the victims were still alive. Frantically, the officers called for fire crews to come inside and begin helping the wounded.
But they refused.
Everyone outside the club knew that the gunman hadn’t been taken out yet. He was reportedly hiding out and attempting to fix his jammed weapon as police made entry. He had been using social media and news stories to stay ahead of police. Other crews weren’t coming in.
That’s when Omar and his fellow officers began pulling injured bodies themselves, doing any and everything they could to save lives.
“I didn’t know who they were. But they were human beings. They were crying for help.”
Then the phones began to ring as loved ones heard the news of the active shooter situation. Omar was surrounded by the sound, all in unison, all people hoping that their friends and family members hadn’t been inside Pulse that night.
Omar described the horrific scene when one phone that continuously was ringing floated across the floor in a pool of blood…
“Then it’s just… pure silence.”
49 people died more than 50 others were injured before the gunman was killed in a shootout with police.
Surveillance footage was eventually released showing graphic footage of the attack as it unfolded.
A lawsuit was filed last June, going after Orlando officers who stood outside the club while the gunman continued his warpath inside.
“While people, unarmed, innocent were inside a club getting absolutely massacred by a crazed gunman there were a bunch of people … with guns, with the training and capability to take that shooter out,” Solomon Radner, attorney for the plaintiffs in the case, told ABC News.
But police rushed into the club a mere six minutes after the gunman began firing.
The city fired back, issuing a statement saying, “after the horrific act of hate inside the Pulse nightclub, our community continues to mourn the 49 lives taken and provide support for all those impacted. On the morning of June 12, 2016, federal, state and local law enforcement officers and first responders put themselves in harm’s way to save as many lives as possible.”
Officer Omar Delgado told us he’ll never be the same after that night.
“I came home that morning a different person,” he said. “I don’t know how I drove home.”
He said that once he got there he sat inside his car for over 15 minutes outside, covered in blood, lost in a world of thought.
We pray for Omar. We pray for every victim and their families. We pray for the other officers who faced the same trauma, and those that will in the future. And we say thank you for their service and bravery.
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