City police officers sue over being forced to retire due to injury, illness

April 01, 2005|By Ryan Davis | Ryan Davis,SUN STAFF

About 30 injured and disabled Baltimore police officers being forced to retire because of injuries or illnesses filed a federal class action lawsuit yesterday claiming that they are being unlawfully forced to retire.

The suit - which names Police Commissioner Leonard D. Hamm, Mayor Martin O'Malley and others as defendants - alleges that the officers' forced retirements violate the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

In addition, a federal judge will hear a request today to temporarily halt any changes in the employment status of four of the disabled officers, said Michael J. Snider, an attorney for the officers.

City police spokesman Matt Jablow declined to comment on the lawsuit. He has said the department issued the retirement orders to save money that could be used to put more officers on the street.

The officers filing the suit are among about 160 injured and ill officers - some hurt in the line of duty - who were told in January to apply for retirement pensions or be fired. Some of the officers must apply by today, according to the order. The officers are either out of work or have been working light-duty jobs, and they are unlikely to return to patrol.

Last month, some of those officers filed an administrative complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in hopes of getting the U.S. Department of Justice to step in and file suit. Snider said the EEOC has not completed its investigation of that complaint.

Lt. Frederick V. Roussey, president of the local police union, said he did not pursue a lawsuit against the department because union lawyers told him it would have about a "20 percent" chance of succeeding.

"I hope they can prove everybody wrong and win," he said.

The officers will be retained if they do not receive a pension, though there is a great disparity between the value of the types of pensions they could be awarded.

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