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Bill aims to improve injured fire and police officers benefits

Created: 02/12/2014 7:01 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

New Mexico cops and firefighters call it a raw deal. If you’re shot or injured in the line of duty, your retirement benefits can also take a hit.

It’s been this way for decades. Say you’re shot while chasing a homicidal bad guy. When you move from injury leave to workers compensation during your recovery, the city or county that employs you no longer has to pay into your retirement plan – and you don’t get to contribute either.

That’s what happened to Bernalillo County Deputy Robin Hopkins when she nearly lost her left leg in a high speed shootout with a wannabe cop-killer back in October.  On Wednesday, Hopkins joined Gov. Susana Martinez and several of the state’s top cops at State Police headquarters in Albuquerque to back legislation that would fix the problem.

“I won’t speak for me,” Hopkins said. “I'm going to speak for all my brothers and sisters in public safety. I’m going to be back to work, and this bill tells us that we’re supported until we get back to work, so it means a lot to us.”

Hopkins got the idea in the hospital, and talked it over with Sheriff Dan Houston, who called in state Rep. Paul Pacheco, an Albuquerque Republican who is a retired Albuquerque Police officer. He is the sponsor of the legislation that has passed the state House and is now in the Senate.

“This bill is a small step in trying to correct what I consider to be an injustice for public safety employees,” Pacheco said.

The bill has the support of New Mexico’s governor, who just happens to be married to a retired cop, and whose father was a cop.

“From a bulletproof vest to guns to handcuffs to all the leather and all of the weight that is placed on their bodies to try to protect them – they can still be injured,” Martinez said. “And keep in mind: they do this every single day.”

There’s one drawback to the bill. It only encourages local governments to put the wounded cop or the injured firefighter on fulltime administrative leave so their retirement account doesn’t shrink. It doesn’t make it mandatory, because some New Mexico small towns and villages just can’t afford it. But plenty of then can, and will, if this legislation becomes law. There’s one week left in the 30 day legislative session.


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