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I read something in the paper this evening that just seems wrong. Its shameful that Indiana Sheriff Deputies who are permanently disabled while in the line of duty are not guaranteed decent disability pensions. Meanwhile, city police have disability protections that are not afforded to their county law enforcement counterparts. Don’ get me wrong, I’m happy that our city police receive apparently decent disability benefits. It just seems inappropriate that county law enforcement officers don’t.

According to the article, county governments are not required to guarantee specific pension amounts to disabled Sheriff’s deputies, while police officers employed by city and municipal governments are covered by a state-run pension plan. This simply makes no sense at all, especially given the dangerous line of work they are in.

Our county sheriff employees not only perform often dangerous criminal investigations and arrests, and traffic investigations and stops, but they also serve civil summons and man our county jails. Probably half of all county sheriff employees serve as correctional officers in our county jails. These employees are required to supervise and manage all of the inmates in the jail. Most inmates are relatively harmless, but not all of them. Don’t forget that murderers must first face a judge in our county courts before being sent to the Indiana State Department of Corrections, and they are kept in our county jails while they await trial.

Our Deputy Sheriffs also help our communities in times of trouble such as natural disasters. You’ll find our deputy sheriffs helping during floods, and rushing to help people after tornadoes. They also are often the first responders to severe traffic accidents. All of these activities involve inherent dangers, and our deputy sheriffs risk injury every day they are on the job.

We rely on these county employees to keep our communities safe and help us in our times of need. Yet, we apparently can’t even provide them the same basic promise of a liveable wage if they are permanently injured while they serve our communities…?? This needs to change.

Until you’ve seen people who are truly disabled fight for their disability payments, you cannot appreciate how desperate their plight is. Imagine not being able to work, but not having any income for months or years. Unfortunately, I’ve had many injured clients suffer the extreme insult of waiting years for disability to kick in while they struggle to keep their homes, keep food on the table, and keep their dignity. Most often, they end up depending on their families and friends to keep them going while their disability benefits take years to begin.

The men and woman who serve our counties and keep us safe deserve much better.

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