Portland, OR – A Portland police officer who returned to work after he was shot in the line of duty said the department refused to give him a desk job when he could no longer work patrol as a result of his injuries.
Portland Police Officer Chris Barker was responding to a call about a man who had grabbed a woman’s butt in a park in Southeast Portland in 2001 when he was shot by a mentally-ill man, the Portland Tribune reported.
The bullet, which was fired from less than six feet away, entered Officer Barker’s right hand near his pinky, and then traveled up his arm and lodged in his bicep.
Doctors performed numerous surgeries to save the arm, including transplanting nerves from the officer’s leg into his arm, according to the Portland Tribune.
The surgeons warned that his injuries would continue to cause him problems for the rest of his life.
Officer Barker told the Portland Tribune that he vowed to return to his job as a police officer for the Portland Police Bureau.
And after two difficult years of physical therapy, he returned to patrol.
Officer Barker was given a Police Star award from his department in 2002 “in recognition of personal courage and devotion to duty” during the incident when he was wounded, the Portland Tribune reported.
He continued to be a standout officer after he returned to duty, and in 2009, he received a Medal of Valor from the city of Portland for his role in another shooting incident.
In the 18 years since he was shot, Officer Barker’s injuries that were sustained in the line of duty have worsened, despite the best efforts of his physicians, the Portland Tribune reported.
He suffers from a constant dull ache, as well as prickly electrical sensations in his wrist and a bee-sting feeling in his hand and arm.
Officer Barker told the Portland Tribune that the pain worsens throughout the day and “wakes me up pretty much nightly."
Narcotic pain medications don’t help and battling the discomfort is exhausting.
The officer said his right hand has a lot of numbness and shakes when he is tired, the Portland Tribune reported.
Despite the daily physical struggle, Officer Barker continued to serve the people of Portland as a patrol officer for years after he was initially wounded, despite having to use a lot of sick leave to continue dealing with the original injury’s long-term ramifications.
Then the city refused to cover additional surgery to clean up scar tissue in his arm, the Portland Tribune reported.
Without the surgery, Officer Barker will be forced to retire early and lose the full retirement he would have been entitled to if he had stayed on the police force until 2021.
So he applied for a desk job so that he could continue serving his community and was turned down, the Portland Tribune reported.
His past need for sick time was cited as the reason he didn’t get the position he sought, despite the fact that he wouldn’t need as much sick time if he weren’t trying to do patrol work on a daily basis.
Officer Barker is currently answering phones at the Portland Police Bureau but he must return to patrol in November or take early retirement.
He told the Portland Tribune that he would have better job security if he had gotten a DUI instead of getting shot because after a DUI, he would be assigned desk duty forever under the city’s rules.
Officer Barker filed a notice of impending lawsuit against the city in June for unlawfully retaliating against him for rightfully using his own sick time.
He also took his case to the city’s police watchdog entity, the Independent Police Review unit, to ask for its intervention, the Portland Tribune reported.
"This is what happens when you stand up for yourself in this city,” Officer Barker said.