Council must focus on policy for injured officers

Posted Monday, Jul. 08, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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On a personal and emotional level, Fort Worth City Council members face one of the toughest decisions they'll ever make: whether to cut back on benefits they've repeatedly granted to two city police officers who suffered disabling injuries in the line of duty.

On a city policy level, they must make the tough decision to change those benefits and establish a policy that is fair, consistent and predictable for all police and firefighters.

Officer Lisa Ramsey was working undercover, wearing a mask and holding a gun, on Jan. 1, 2003, when she entered a convenience store to arrest a man who police said had sold drugs to officers outside. She was shot by a store clerk who mistook her for an armed robber.

Officer Richard Lambing joined the pursuit of a motorcyclist suspected of drug possession on July 8, 2010. His car hydroplaned and struck a tree, and Lambing suffered severe head injuries.

Each year, the council has renewed benefits for Ramsey and Lambing, including annual line-of-duty injury pay of $77,292.80 for each officer. That’s what they each would earn if they were on duty, city administrators say.

Both also draw workers’ compensation Lifetime Injury Benefits, which administrators say are $35,373 a year for Ramsey and $40,196 for Lambing.

In addition to Ramsey’s income benefits, the city has spent $2.8 million to assist with injury-related expenses, including home health care, alterations to her vehicle and improvements to her home, administrators say.

Lambing’s additional benefits for injury-related expenses total $2 million.

Fort Worth has been more than fair. The city has stepped forward to help these officers through difficulties growing from their dedicated service.

Yet what the city is doing is not sustainable. It is not good policy to expect any police officer or firefighter to return hat-in-hand to the council each year for injury pay.

Indeed, administrators say what the city has been doing year after year for Ramsey and Lambing does not conform to state law. The two should be receiving financial benefits equal to full-time pay.

Each of these officers also has generous additional options. Both could use accrued leave and continue receiving current financial benefits for two years. They also have the option of disability retirement.

The council must focus on establishing long-term city policy.

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