Many Oklahomans might assume the pension benefits of police officers disabled in the line of duty are protected. They might take it for granted that a cop shot in the head by a crazed meth addict would be eligible for 100 percent of the money he's accumulated over the years – if he's lucky enough to survive the grave injury.
They would be wrong. But House Bill 3330 could change that.
According to bill author Rep. David Perryman, D-Chickasha, this is one of those things that has, regrettably and perhaps surprisingly, slipped through the cracks. Most Oklahomans avidly support hard-working, caring law enforcement officers and want them to be protected in the manner in which they serve and protect the public. It's only when officers go rogue – and unfortunately, sometimes they do – that those behind the badge get a collective black eye as Oklahomans clamor for justice. And it doesn't help when justice is not forthcoming.
But that's not what this is about. This measure would ensure that officers who become disabled through a violent act, while they're on duty, will receive 100 percent of the disability benefits accorded by their pension. As it stands, they might be denied those benefits if they can't continue working in law enforcement.
As Perryman put it: "No officer, faithfully executing their oath to serve the public, should have their financial future jeopardized due to being injured in an act of violence."
It's time that certain politicians stopped referring to pensions, Social Security, and other worker benefits as "entitlements" or even a "safety net." These funds are lifelines for those who depend on them – literally, as Perryman said, a plan for financial security. They are funds into which workers pay, or into which employers provide money as part of a benefits package. They are part of earned compensation, not handouts to deadbeats.
We ask law enforcement officers to put their lives on the line every day, and the vast majority of them do. Isn't it enough that their families must grapple with this reality, without having to make them fear financial disaster if a violent attack occurs?
This bill deserves an earnest hearing, and then passage. There's no legitimate reason for it to fail – unless it's partisan politics. And that, while a reason, certainly isn't a legitimate one – especially since officers run the gamut in terms of their politics.