Wounded Cop's Wife Says He's Losing Job After Speaking Out About Worker's Comp
Wichita Falls, TX – Wichita Falls Police Officer Tim Putney, who was badly injured in the line of duty in 2017 and now works in an administrative position, has been ordered to stop carrying his duty weapon in what may be the first step toward the disabled officer’s termination.
Officer Putney’s wife, Chelsea, said Wichita Falls Police Chief Manuel Borrego told her husband in the last week of February that he could no longer carry his weapon outside of the police department because he is on modified duty, the Times Record News reported.
The wounded officer has been on modified duty since September of 2017 and has carried his weapon the entire time, according to his wife.
Chelsea said that all of the officers carry, including the ones who are assigned light duty because of injuries.
She told the Times Record News that Chief Borrego has never said anything before about Officer Putney carrying his duty weapon in the 29 months since her husband returned to modified duty.
Officer Putney suffered a spinal injury while trying to handcuff a suspect on July 11, 2017, the Times Record News reported.
He needed surgery from the damage done when he fell against a concrete curb, but instead of moving quickly to get the officer back to good health, the system worked against him most of the way, according to the Times Record News.
He returned to work on light duty August 17, 2017, but was forced to stop due to his injury.
A doctor had recommended spinal surgery in March of 2018, but Edwards Risk Management, a contractor for the city, requested a second opinion.
So the Texas Department of Insurance directed Officer Putney to see Steven A. Doores, a plastic surgeon, about his back injury.
The Putneys filmed their visit with Dr. Doores on the advice of their attorney, and then filed a complaint with the Texas Medical Board when he denied that Officer Putney needed surgery, the Times Record News reported.
Dr. Doores later withdrew his claim.
“The report was submitted prematurely and cannot be amended,” Dr. Steven A. Doores wrote in a May 14 letter to the officer. “Therefore, I am withdrawing the report. I will no longer be involved in this case.”
The doctor recommended that another physician conduct an examination, and apologized “for any inconvenience” in the letter, the Times Record News reported.
Officer Putney lost months of while he waited for a hearing to get things turned around.
He was finally approved for surgery after a worker’s compensation hearing before an administrative judge on July 19, 2018.
As soon as he was able, Officer Putney returned to modified duty at his police department while he did physical therapy, the Times Record News reported.
He was assigned an administrative role in the criminal investigations division and hoped to return eventually to patrol.
But when he was finally released by his doctors in February, he got some very bad news, according to a Facebook post by his wife.
“Tim has been doing so well and was released from his doctor a few weeks ago!” Chelsea began her message. “He continues to work hard in physical therapy and our prayer is that he will keep getting stronger.”
“In the doctors release it states that he is unable to return to patrol due to all the hardware in his back and his right foot still being dead. The doctor recommended him continue his current job as a detective,” she wrote.
Chelsea said that after Officer Putney got that news from his doctor, the department notified him that he would be terminated when his leave for line-of-duty injury extension granted by the city council expired.
The city’s human resources director, Christi Klyne, told the Times Record News that city policy precluded permanently modified positions.
Klyne said that doing so would just create additional permanent positions that were not accounted for in the agency’s or city’s budget.
Officer Putney’s wife said that when Wichita Falls PD lets her husband go, they will have to pull another officer off of patrol to fill his administrative role in misdemeanor criminal investigations, the Times Record News reported.
"I don't think this speaks very highly of the city and just proves you are just a number to them," she complained. “"It comes back to the city doing the right thing and taking care of their employees.”
She said there were a number of administrative roles Officer Putney could fill as a member of the police department, the Times Record News reported.
Chelsea said in her Facebook post that she thought the city was terminating Officer Putney because they had been so vocal about the mistreatment they received going through the worker’s compensation process.
She argued that permanently assigning her husband to desk duty wouldn’t be creating a new position in the department.
“We know of a few officers injured in the line of duty and unable to return to the streets but still have jobs within the department, so we fell like this decision is 100% personal,” Officer Putney’s wife wrote. “The current job Tim has been doing will now have to be filled with someone else so why can't he just keep doing it?”
But Klyne said the city urged all employees in Officer Putney’s situation to seek alternative jobs with the city in a more appropriate position.
From now until he is terminated, Officer Putney may not wear his uniform or badge in public, and he cannot carry his duty weapon, Wichita Falls City Spokeswoman Lindsay Barker said.
"Officer Putney was told not to wear his gun or badge during working hours, outside of the department, for his protection," Barker said. "This is due to his medical restrictions that prohibit him from defending himself or taking law enforcement action if needed.”
Chelsea has called for the city and police department to change their policy.
“I have struggled with saying anything at all about our current situation but if I don’t speak out nothing will ever change, and I strongly feel this policy needs to be changed,” she wrote. “This is not how all departments handle this situation and in fact the same departments that the city uses to compare pay with takes care of their officers and finds jobs within the department that they can perform and keep their peace officers license (which is a big deal).”
Klyne said that City Manager Darron Leiker would not approve a policy change, the Times Record News reported.
"If there was a recommendation to change the modified duty policy to allow for permanently modified positions, the recommendation would not be approved," she said.