Hartford, CT – The Connecticut State Legislature is considering a bill that would allow municipalities to pay full wages to law enforcement officers who are wounded and disabled in the line of duty.
Under the current law, Connecticut public safety employees who are forced into retirement due to an injury are only entitled to receive up to 75 percent of their wage from worker’s compensation, The Hour reported.
But under Senate Bill 994, cities would be allowed “to pay a disabled police officer the difference between the amount the officer would have received as pay if he or she could continue performing duties as an officer and the amount he or she is receiving from various benefits,” according to the Connecticut General Assembly website.
Similarly, under Senate Bill 556, local officials could vote to pay the difference between disability pay and pre-retirement pay for safety employees forced into retirement due to on-duty injuries until they are old enough to collect a full pension.
“A program or resource such as this that can assist officers who are seriously injured in the line of duty is something that I would wholeheartedly support,” Norwalk Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik told The Hour.
If passed, the law changes could dramatically improve the financial situations of law enforcement officers who suffer career-ending injuries in the line of duty, as well as their families.
It is a battle that Norwalk Police Officer Philip Roselle and his wife, Debbie, have been fighting for over a year.
Officer Roselle, a 30-year veteran of the force, is still fighting for his life 18 months after a superior officer at his department accidentally shot him, The Hour reported.
The shooting occurred on Sept. 5, 2017 after a long day of in-service training for the department’s new Glock 17 pistols.
While the officers were cleaning their weapons, Officer Roselle's supervisor failed to properly unload his weapon before disassembling it.
“I just remember I was cleaning my gun when I heard a ‘bang’ and I felt a pain in my chest and in my arm, and I looked down and there was blood everywhere,” Officer Roselle told The Hour.
The police report said the wounded officer stumbled backwards and fell to the ground.
The shot went through Officer Roselle’s arm and into his chest, lodging the 9mm bullet in his rib cage in a spot where it cannot be removed.
“I feel [the bullet] every day whether I breathe, cough or sneeze or laugh,” he told WTIC in February. “It’s constantly there.”
He has suffered numerous and ongoing complications from the wound. There have been blood clots, a partial blockage of his heart, permanent nerve damage to his right hand, and most recently, kidney failure, The Hour reported.
Officer Roselle told The Hour he also suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and swings of depression since having been shot.
“I have been working tirelessly over the last 5 months with several lawmakers at our State Capitol to create legislation that would provide permanently injured First Responders with 100% disability pay,” Debbie recently told Blue Lives Matter.
“Why is it that our permanently injured first responders who survive get punished for living?” she asked. “As it stands now, my husband will only receive 75% of his pay [taxable] because he survived.”
Debbie, Officer Roselle, and their two young sons have all testified before the legislature, and hope to have at least one of the bills passed by June 7.
But they could use some help from fellow law enforcement officers, she said.
“I have worked hard all by myself fighting for not just my husband but all first responders in the state…Yet I found myself fighting this battle alone,” she told Blue Lives Matter. “I am not sure why other families of first responders aren’t helping me because if god forbid something happens like it did to my husband after 31 years it can happen to them and this new law will protect them.”
Debbie said there is also a good chance that if the bills do pass, her husband won’t benefit from them.
“It is hard to [make a bill] retroactive,” she explained. “I was pleading to the mayor…to give Phil a few more months to retire him and his decision was to not do that.”