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MoCo Police Officers Pack Hearing on Disability Retirement

Montgomery County police officers in uniform packed the council chamber tonight to oppose legislation that would overhaul the county disability retirement system under scrutiny by the inspector general's office and federal law enforcement officials.

Police and other union leaders criticized council members during the public hearing for trying to redesign the system through legislation instead of negotiating changes through collective bargaining.

"We should not have to call our members off their beats to fight in the political arena for their families' financial security in the event of an injury," said Marc Zifcak, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 35, to thunderous applause in the standing room only hearing room in Rockville. "This is an attempt to erode employee benefits."

The legislation, sponsored by Council President Phil Andrews (D-Gaithersburg-Rockville) and Council member Duchy Trachtenberg (D-At Large), would change the way applications for disability retirement are reviewed and create a two-tier level of benefits depending on the severity of an injury.

Their efforts were praised by two occupational medical experts and a representative from the Montgomery County Taxpayers League for trying to bring greater accountability and oversight to the system.

But the police union's argument appeared to gain traction with at least three of the seven council members at the hearing. Council members Michael Knapp (D-Upcounty), Valerie Ervin (D-Silver Spring) and Marc Elrich (D-At Large) said legislation should not preempt ongoing negotiations over the system between the union and County Executive Isiah Leggett (D).

Elrich faulted Leggett's administration and previous county executives for not using their existing power to reexamine the physical condition of disabled retirees in the years after they begin to collect the tax-free benefit.

"If we'd just do what we were supposed to be doing, we'd be in pretty good shape," Elrich said.

By Ann Marimow  |  January 15, 2009; 8:56 PM ET
Categories:  Ann Marimow  
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Comments

...said Marc Zifcak, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 35, to thunderous applause in the standing room only hearing room in Rockville. "This is an attempt to erode employee benefits."
Another Union smokescreen; this is fraud by the millions. All you have to compare the disability rates of Arlington or Fairfax or any similar dept. in the area (except the DC system, which is also corrupt) and you will see how disgusting this situation has become. Get disability, go work somewhere else and collect two paychecks...all too common and sad.

Posted by: nosurprise2me | January 16, 2009 8:09 AM | Report abuse

With all due respect, poster "nosurprise"...I must temper your comments here. If the disability retirement rate "statistics" being bandied about by those whose agenda is to cut police benefits, you really need to come up with some actual evidence of fraud. This is still America, and blanket accusations are a dime a dozen. At least in MoCo, we don't burn witches on rumors and gossip alone.

Also, simply (very simply) comparing the disability retirement rates of other jurisdiction's police forces means absolutely nothing. What is an acceptable percentage of disability retirements to you? Now, can you justify it?

If anyone has a legitimate concern about any state employee being involved in any waste, fraud and abuse...they should present their suspicions or evidence through legitimate channels...

TGIF

Posted by: free-donny | January 16, 2009 8:56 AM | Report abuse

To finish my own comments, and temper mine towards "nosurprise"...I did not mean to preach...its only natural to react to "shocking statistics" and "scandalous headlines"...thats what media and mgmt behind them use on us. Classic advertising. These things elicit a "reaction", that is meant to take us out of our rational thinking mode. Please don't fall again for the "shock doctrine".

Its obvious that this "legislation" is a well planned ambush intended to reduce police benefits and benefits for their families. I trust the council will not buy into this ambush.

Posted by: free-donny | January 16, 2009 9:10 AM | Report abuse

Free-Donny: You must try and explain how two very similar police departments, Fairfax and Montgomery, have such different disbility rates. Don't hand me that bull that state laws are different. Their demographics are so similar that the stark differences in disability rates is alarming and I applaud any effort to examine this situation. I don't buy Mont Co cops are being injured at an outrageous rate when Fairfax cops are doing the same job with a signifcant lower injury rate.

Posted by: nosurprise2me | January 16, 2009 9:40 AM | Report abuse

If there is "no fraud" as free donny submits, then scrutiny won't hurt honest police officers. It seems this strong reaction to this topic is as concerning as the disability stats mentioned. If a few have taken advantage of the system then, changes should be made. Someone who is truly disabled will not lose benefits, only those who may not be and are looking for a free ride.

Posted by: laurabunny | January 16, 2009 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Free-donny is like one of those guys who looked at lilly-white police departments a while back and at statistics that showed that 0% of Blacks who applied where hired and that 60% of Whites who applied were hired and concluded "no discrimination because statistics lie."

Come on Donny, my friends at West Point, all of whom served in Vietnam, did not retire on disability at anywhere near the rates of Montgomery County Police officers.

We need to do a spread sheet of all the disabilities in the past 5 years, including who approved the disabilities and what reasons were given. Patterns of improprieties will emerge.

These disabilities did not involve shot officers. Are there that many police auto accidents? What gives here? Homeowners cannot afford to pay expensive disabilities and then, as is often the case, second salaries. Homeowners are not ATMs. The statistical differences between Fairfax, Howard and Frederick and Montgomery County are revealing--so revealing that a thorough investigation must be made for the homeowners who are paying the bill. This can't be swept under the rug or ignored because some folks go to a council meeting instead of staying home that night.

I know you are involved in the education of your kids Donny. What would you say about your schools if 60% of the kids flunked in your school and nobody in the schools next door did?

Posted by: robinfickerofrobinrealty | January 16, 2009 12:28 PM | Report abuse

I agree with LauraB's comments above, submit the system to proper oversite and audit.

I also question the "60%" number being thrown about. Where did it come from. The number I saw upon further reading was 6. SIX officers sustaining disability retirement in a year. What makes this number so unacceptable and why? What is the correct number of disability retirements for a police force well over 1,000 comissioned LE officers?

This just seems like a lot of noise, and given the sketchy details in reports, the noise is understandable. If this is not a manufactured "scandal" to push an agenda of cutting police benefits, then what is the harm with simply conduucting a full audit of the process?

An independent audit will expose waste fraud and abuse. My guess is that this is already happening on a periodic basis. Most folks would like the police to treat them fairly, I think we can return the courtesy and treat the police fairly.

Ficker, it sounds like you are simply asking for a routine and proper audit, correct (in your own animated way)?

TGIF everyone.

Posted by: free-donny | January 16, 2009 12:53 PM | Report abuse

OK, as was explained to me: The only way the 60% can be applied is that 11 police officers APPLIED for disablity retirement in 2008. That is a 60% increase over the 7 police officers who APPLIED in 2007.

In truth, we cannot tell from any numbers provided by the Post if the number of disability retirements are increasing or not. Based on these facts, approved disability retirements in MoCo Police Dept might actually be declining.

Does anyone interpret these facts differently? One person posting to the orginal article actually thought 60% of the entire police force was retiring on disability! I think a lot of good people were fooled by this and its created a lot of anxiety needlessly. All because of politics?

Posted by: free-donny | January 16, 2009 3:29 PM | Report abuse

Donny, you are still standing on the dock, looking at the boat that just left you behind.

60% of all police officers who have retired in the past several years have retired on disability.

Posted by: robinfickerofrobinrealty | January 17, 2009 3:20 AM | Report abuse

FIcker, could you raise the bar a bit? we would like to know where this information you tout comes from. THe only number we cwn quote thus far is that last year, 4 additional officers APPLIED for disability retirement than in the previous year.

I do envy those of you that boarded the boat that has left the dock. However, you may want to check to ensure your boat is not sinking, or that it is not a ship of fools. Nothing personal, but you should know not to base arguments on rumor or conjecture...only facts. You are better than this, Ficker.

Thx

Posted by: free-donny | January 17, 2009 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Don did you just get back from a trip overseas? Look at the post on Maryland Moment by Ann Marimow and Anne Bartlett on November 28, 2008 which stated that 60% of Montgomery County police officers WHO RETIRED DURING THE PAST FOUR YEARS RETIRED ON FULL DISABILITY. This is obviously a scam of the system. If it walks like a duck, sounds like a duck and looks like a duck, it is a duck. That is why all of us homeowners are ducking when we look at our huge property tax increases this year. Save Our Homes!

Posted by: robinfickerofrobinrealty | January 17, 2009 6:33 PM | Report abuse

Ficker, as we can plainly see, those statistics are stretched and chopped for political means...I am not calling you a politician, but you are extremely politically active.

The only facts I'm intersted in are:

(1) How many officers retired on disability last year and previous years?

(2)How many MoCo police disability claims have been noted as fraud (officially please)?

(3) Is there a need to reassess HOW this process is being audited and/or WHO is performing the audit?

I do not have these facts at hand, please direct us. Thx.

Posted by: free-donny | January 18, 2009 1:25 PM | Report abuse

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