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Idaho police seek full pay for officers hurt on job

BOISE – A month after an Idaho State Police trooper was paralyzed by a shooting during a traffic stop, police are pushing lawmakers to create a fund to pay officers injured on the job 100 percent of their salaries while they are recovering, or until they go on permanent disability.

Members of the Fraternal Order of Police visited the Capitol on Tuesday to meet with legislators in support of a proposal by Sen. Curt McKenzie, R-Boise. It would increase the court costs paid by felony and misdemeanor convicts, with the money going to help maintain injured officers’ full salaries.

Police officers’ jobs require them to put themselves in harm’s way every day, said Bryan Lovell, a deputy with the Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office. McKenzie’s bill would make sure that when officers get hurt, they at least don’t suffer financially from doing their jobs, he said.

The Fraternal Order of Police estimates about 600 officers are injured on the job every year in Idaho.

Workers’ compensation pays 67 percent of full salary for those injured in the line of duty. Some agencies, such as the Idaho State Police and the Boise Police Department, automatically pay the 33 percent difference out of their budgets, said Boise police Officer Joel Teuber, legislative chairman for the Fraternal Order of Police.

Because Trooper Chris Glenn – the officer who was shot in the neck and paralyzed by an armed robbery suspect last month – was a member of the Idaho State Police, he will receive 100 percent of his salary until he goes on permanent disability.

But most agencies cover on-the-job injuries with workers’ compensation alone, Teuber said.

Former Coeur d’Alene police Officer Mike Kralicek was shot in the face Dec. 28, 2005, by a handcuffed man suspected of stealing a beer keg. Even after months of intense physical rehabilitation, Kralicek’s mobility is severely limited, and his wife quit her job as an emergency room nurse to take care of him.

Kralicek would have taken the 33 percent pay cut when he was hurt had the city of Coeur d’Alene not stepped in to pay the difference. Kralicek’s case spurred the city to make it a policy to pay the difference in similar cases.

Under McKenzie’s bill, money from the new fund would be used to make up the difference between workers’ compensation and full pay in all such cases in the state.

Court costs for convicts – currently $50 for felonies and $25 for misdemeanors – would likely go up by two or three dollars under the proposed plan, McKenzie said. His proposal will go before a committee for approval in the next few weeks, he said.

McKenzie’s proposal joins a related plan by Sen. Mike Jorgenson, R-Hayden Lake, to use higher court costs to pay for lifetime health insurance for officers disabled in the line of duty.

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