MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - At least 150 Minneapolis Police Officers have begun the process of seeking 'duty disability' for post-traumatic stress under the Minnesota Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA), said an attorney representing the officers.
The attorney, Ron Meuser, who handles most disability claims for the Minneapolis Police Federation, told the FOX 9 Investigators 75 of those officers are under doctors’ orders not to return to work as they undergo treatment for symptoms consistent with PTSD.
“The symptoms didn’t just start six weeks ago,” said Meuser. “They’ve been dealing with symptoms for decades.”
But the stress and trauma reached a tipping point with the siege of the Third Police Precinct, he said. Fifty of the officers currently seeking disability, about one-third of the total, were present at the Third Precinct on Thursday, May 28.
“They did not feel they were going to come home,” said Meuser. Some officers were texting their families’ goodbye and others were saving a bullet in case they needed to take their own life, rather than being beaten to death, he said.
Meuser said since the killing of George Floyd, officers have felt abandoned by city and state politicians as well as the community at large.
“It’s an emotional beatdown on a daily basis for these guys,” he said.
Asked if those seeking disability are retaliating against the City of Minneapolis, Meuser denied that is the case.
“I’ve looked them in the eyes, not one of them is attempting to get out of working,” said Meuser. “Every one of them, to a man and woman, said, 'I never thought I would be leaving this way.'"
Meuser added that most of the officers seeking disability are veterans of the department with 16 to 23 years of experience.
Recent changes in state law have made it easier for law enforcement to claim their jobs caused post-traumatic stress, instead of other factors like previous military service or home life.
In the last month, the City of Minneapolis has received 17 PTSD related workers’ compensation claims.
But applications submitted under the state retirement fund, known as PERA, do not require an employee to notify the department that an application has been submitted.
Under PERA duty disability, officers would be able to claim 60 percent of their average salary over the next 20 years. If the employee also files for workers’ compensation, it usually makes up the difference to their full salary.
Minneapolis City Councilwoman Linea Palmisano (Ward 13) said so many officers seeking disability could have an enormous financial impact on the city.
“This keeps someone who is no longer working, at a significant expense to our city, and I fear with appropriate treatment could have recovered and been a meaningful contributor to our city,” said Palmisano.
Palmisano, who believes the officers’ claims are legitimate, said too little is done before a diagnosis of post traumatic stress, and not enough afterwards.
Along with other council members, she supports additional resiliency training to help officers recognize and cope with the signs of post-traumatic stress.
Palmisano said recent legislative changes, while they make it easier to establish a claim, don’t allow enough time for treatment that would allow an employee to successfully return to work.
“This is too often a hidden ailment,” said Palmisano. “And we sure don’t want that because it comes out in people’s lives and their work lives in a bad way.”