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No Benefits for Police Officer's PTSD

 No Benefits for Officer's PTSD Following I-90 Shootout:



A New York appellate court ruled that police officer was not entitled to workers' compensation benefits for his mental distress following a deadly 2009 shootout with an armed fugitive.


Case: Cook v. East Greenbush Police Department, No. 515236, 02/13/2014, published.

Facts: James Cook, a patrol officer for the East Greenbush Police Department, was on duty on Jan. 10, 2009 when a call came in about an gunman who had opened fire on motorists and law enforcement officers on Interstate 90.


According to a report in the Times Union newspaper, the gunman was Darrel O. Brown, 23, a Bloods gang enforcer from Connecticut known as "Mad Dog."


Police suspected that Brown had carjacked a man in Hartford, Conn., on Jan. 9, 2009 and caught a taxi out of town. He was believed to be headed to Schenectady, where he had an ex-girlfriend and a child, when police stopped Brown’s cab for speeding on I-90 in East Greenbush.


Brown then grabbed an assault rifle and fired off 28 rounds, sending the officers and motorists running.


Cook and two fellow officers deployed to the scene as a "contact team." Their job was to approach Brown from behind and serve as spotters to alert other officers to Brown's movements.


Police sharpshooters were able to bring Brown down, and Brown died days later at Albany Medical Center Hospital.


After this incident, Cook began to miss work on a regular basis and doctors diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder.


Procedural History: Cook filed a claim for workers' compensation benefits, asserting that he was disabled by his PTSD.


A workers' compensation judge denied his claim, finding that the events of Jan. 10, 2009 were within the scope of his job description and responsibilities as a peace officer.


A divided Workers' Compensation Board upheld the decision, as did the Appellate Division's 3rd Department.


Analysis: For a mental injury premised on work-related stress to be compensable in New York, the worker must have been exposed to stress in an amount greater than what usually occurs in his normal work environment, the court explained.


Although Cook’s supervisor had described the events of Jan. 10, 2009 as "extraordinary," the court reasoned that what all had happened was within "the regular course of duty for a police officer."


No matter the size of the department, the court said, being a law enforcement officer requires that an officer "be on notice each day that deadly force may be required to subdue a suspect who is endangering public safety."


Disposition: Affirmed.


To read the decision, click here.


Source: WorkCompCentral

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