Bill would guarantee 100% of pension benefits for officers forced to retire due to a violent act injury in the line of duty
BOSTON – On October 1, Senator Cindy F. Friedman testified in support of legislation she filed that would allow severely injured public safety officers who suffer violent and traumatic injuries in the line of duty to be eligible to receive 100% of their benefits. Friedman was joined by several public safety officials, including Chelsea Police Chief and President of the Major City Chiefs of Police Association Brian Kyes along with former Woburn Police Officer Robert DeNapoli and former Somerville Police Detective Mario Oliveira, both of whom were forced to retire due to violent and traumatic injuries in the line of duty.
Under current law, public safety officers that retire due to accidental disability are eligible to receive 72% of their regular compensation at the time of their injury. Friedman’s bill, S.1531, would allow a small subset of severely injured public safety officers that retire due to accidental disability because they were the victims of a violent act injury to be eligible to receive 100% of their regular compensation, including applicable benefits and stipends until they reach the age of mandatory retirement. At that time, they would be eligible for 80 percent of the pension including cost of living (COLA) increases.
The bill was originally filed by Friedman’s predecessor, Senator Ken Donnelly, who initiated a conversation with DeNapoli after hearing about the onerous process he had to go through to receive 100% of his benefits after suffering a violent injury in the line of duty in 2011. Ever since, Friedman has worked with DeNapoli, Oliveira, Kyes, and Bedford Police Chief Bongiorno to move this bill through the legislative process.
“It is unconscionable and, frankly, insulting that we force police officers who have suffered a life-altering injury to go through such a burdensome and emotionally straining process to receive the benefits necessary to sustain themselves and their families after such a tragic event,” said Friedman. “I want to thank Chief Kyes, Chief Bongiorno, Bob DeNapoli, and Mario Oliveira for collaborating with our office on this initiative, and for advocating on behalf of police officers across our state. This legislation would appropriately and consistently compensate public safety officers who were injured while protecting our communities. Surely, it is the least we can do.”
The expenses accompanying violent crime injuries place a heavy burden on disabled public safety officers and their families. As an acknowledgement of this burden, and the sacrifice made, municipalities must file home rule petitions on a case-by-case basis to provide accidental disability compensation at 100% of the officer’s regular salary. This, however, potentially creates a problem of consistency and fairness whereby municipalities across the Commonwealth could provide inconsistent benefits to injured officers.
“This bill is a commonsense initiative that would change the lives of severely injured police officers and allow them to receive the benefits they deserve so that they can care for themselves and their families,” said Chief Kyes, President of the Major City Chiefs of Police Association. “The forty chiefs who make up the Major City Chiefs of Police Association fully support this effort and hope the legislature chooses to protect our public safety officials this session by passing this bill.”
The bill defines “violent act injury” as “a serious and permanent personal bodily injury sustained as a direct and proximate result of a violent attack upon a person by means of a dangerous weapon, including, but not limited to, a firearm, knife, automobile, explosive device or other dangerous weapon.” Since 1947, roughly forty public safety officers would have been automatically eligible to receive the benefits associated with this legislation.
In concluding her testimony, Friedman urged the committee to report the bill favorably.
The bill is a bi-partisan initiative that currently has half of the Senate members signed on as co-sponsors, as well as several more co-sponsors in the House. To track the progress of the bill, visit https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/S1531.