LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — In a Working 4 You update, the retirement system for local police has approved a change in the rules to leave fewer officers at risk of falling through the cracks while working off duty like one Little Rock Police officer profiled on KARK in November.
“This deals directly with the issue we had on our last appeal regarding officers working off duty who are performing police functions at the time they’re injured,” LOPFI director David Clark said as he presented a rule change to the LOPFI Board on Thursday.
She was working off-duty as security at Dillard’s Park Plaza in 2008. Off-duty work through the department is approved by supervisors, and at the time Jones was injured she was attempting to arrest a shoplifter when a getaway driver ran her over.
She sustained serious injuries that required surgery and physical therapy. It kept her off the job for more than six months. She was injured again in 2010. Eventually, the injuries took their toll, making it impossible for Jones to work as a police officer. She applied for on-duty medical retirement, but the LOPFI board denied the request in September.
That cut her benefits in half, and according to the Little Rock Fraternal Order of Police has since left other officers working off-duty to fear they won’t be protected if they’re injured while trying to stop a crime while they’re not on-duty with the department.
On Thursday, the board unanimously approved a rule change that would clear up the gray area that resulted in Jones’ benefits denial. To read the full changes, click here and scroll to page 86 – Rule 16.
The rule change would allow off-duty officers to be covered by on-duty benefits if they were performing a police function at the time of the injury, with requirements for departments to certify the officer did not violate department policy and creates technical changes to place those officers on the clock once the police performance commences.
According to board member, and law enforcement trustee, Scott Baxter, he helped draft the rules to help protect officers who are protecting and serving on and off duty.
“Being a law enforcement officer, we feel like if you’re acting as a member of law enforcement you’re going to be covered as a police officer, and that just wasn’t the case in Officer Jones’ situation. Hopefully this prevents a situation like this in the future.”
By requiring departments to sign off and certify the police performance, the board believes fraudulent claims will be channeled out, protecting the retirement system while also offering protections to officers.
The change won’t help Officer Jones, she is going through an appeal process at Circuit Court to find out if the board’s decision will be overruled.