AN ORGANIZATION FOR INJURED AND DISABLED LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS
Approximately fifty thousand American Law Enforcement Officers are assaulted every year in the United States. Many sustain injuries running the gamut from minor to catastrophic and career ending. Thousands more are injured in traffic accidents, training accidents and other assorted misfortunes while on duty. Those are physical injuries but many more are affected by PTSI (Post Traumatic Stress Injury). We use the term PTSI as opposed to PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) because the condition is often treatable to the point of it NOT becoming a “disorder” but in many cases it too becomes an incapacitating injury. Most Americans assume that in the event of sustaining on-duty injuries, law enforcement agencies and the local, county and state governments which employ them would be responsible for taking care of them, financially, medically and psychologically as these injuries are incurred while serving the people they swore to protect. Unfortunately the reality is often quite different. Officers who are hurt often lose a major portion of their salaries during their healing process (if the injuries are only temporarily disabling) and also lose the ability to earn enough to feed their families.
By way of an illustration, recently a Police Officer in a small community in South Dakota was seriously injured during a fight with a combative suspect. He was married and had three children and was an officer for three years. He had been attempting an arrest and the suspect beat him severely, breaking bones, tearing ligaments and other injures that required numerous surgeries. The department that he worked for gave him the medical treatment required and put him on “workers compensation” but in that state that was only two-thirds of his salary. His wife was then forced to quit her job because he required 24-hour care which increased the financial burden. These people were forced to reach out for charity because their financial issues were so great they had no money for diapers or Christmas gifts for their children. Donations were scraped together to assist them through the holidays but this officer should not have been forced to literally beg for help.
These are not isolated incidents. They are happening every day in America and the men and women affected are truly voiceless. The reality is that there is an incredible disparity in how injured and disabled law enforcement officers are treated within our nation. Often the injured officer receives inadequate or sub-par medical treatment as the agency forces them to be treated by medical personnel who are influenced politically or financially by the governing body for cost control reasons. This can lead to injuries worsening and physical conditions deteriorating and if there is not a union or protective association (as is often the case) the officers simply have to accept whatever the agency or city offers. Poor medical treatment and disruptions to pay are all too prevalent which lead to draining the savings of the affected officer and their family causing crushing financial burdens. Besides the physical injuries and accompanying issues, more often than not Post Traumatic Stress Injury also results from the events that caused the physical injuries and in fact it may be the PTSI that IS the disabling injury. It is an unfortunate fact that many law enforcement agencies and their leaders attach a stigma to PTSI. Some refuse to approve treatment resulting in a host of other problems including suicide. The scope of the injustice facing the men and women who proudly serve their country and their communities relating to on-duty physical and emotional injuries and disablement is almost unfathomable. This issue has never been addressed nationally or fundamentally. It is a national tragedy and has been unaddressed in any meaningful way by the federal government and many state governments. It is time to correct this injustice and that will be the mission of THE WOUNDED BLUE, AN ORGANIZATION FOR INJURED LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS.
There are approximately 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States employing around 900,000 Federal, State, County and Municipal Law Enforcement Officers. 80% of these agencies employ less than twenty officers. They have different pension systems, employment contracts, some have collective bargaining and unions, some do not. Some are protected by strong Workers Compensation laws and some are not. In short, a Police Officer who is shot or injured and disabled in New York City will be treated entirely differently than in Bismark, North Dakota. The harsh reality is that doing the same dangerous job will not afford the same protections should an injury occur.
The Wounded Blue S.E.A.L. Team
The Wounded Blue Mission: To improve the lives of injured and disabled Law Enforcement Officers through Support, Education, Assistance and Legislation.
SUPPORT: A National Peer Advocate Support Team to provide The Wounded Blue with support, guidance and resources. Provide information and help complete the application process for the Public Safety Officer Benefit for disabled officers. Create “Camp Blue,” a retreat for injured and disabled officers for peer support and their families for peer support and counseling.
EDUCATION: Create and provide training presentations on The Wounded Blue issues of PTSD, abandonment, emotional/mental health and compassionate care to Law Enforcement Leadership and Rank/File Officers. Utilize International Association of Chiefs of Police, National Sheriffs’ Association, State Chiefs and Sheriffs’ Associations, Fraternal Order of Police, Police Benevolent Association, Unions and Law Enforcement Organizations. Provide PTSD prevention training to Active Duty Officers.
ASSISTANCE: Provide emergency financial aid, mental/emotional health treatment referrals, legal assistance referrals, membership benefits of medical/dental discounts, access to private anonymous mental health treatment.
LEGISLATION: Advocate for stronger laws and protections for injured Law Enforcement Officers and universal recognition of PTSD as a Workers’ Compensation Injury. Work for Workers’ Compensation reform and expansion of the Department of Justice Public Officer Safety Benefit program.