A group of Southern California law enforcement officers who rushed to save lives during a gunman’s deadly rampage in Las Vegas returned home wounded but alive.
Yet, while they were hailed for their heroic efforts, there is one benefit they won’t be afforded as they recover physically and psychologically from the Oct. 1 attack: workers’ compensation.
Officials in Orange County on Monday denied compensation claims to four off-duty sheriff’s deputies who were attending the outdoor music festival when it turned into a killing field.
The reason for the denial hinges on a state labor code, which says benefits can only be given to officers acting in "protection or preservation of life or property" specifically within the state of California.
The caveat is now under dispute, and there is a movement — at least on the county level — to see that officers and other first responders can get assistance no matter where an incident takes place. The issue of compensation is certain to remain in the forefront as communities across the country face a threat from mass-casualty events, including terrorist attacks and wildfires.
"These deputies jumped into action during the Las Vegas massacre without thinking for a second about where it was happening or whether they were technically on duty," Tom Dominguez, president of the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs, said in a statement.
"Active shooters, terrorists and criminals who exemplify pure evil don’t pay attention to state lines; law enforcement shouldn’t have to either," Dominguez added. "Counties and municipalities must properly interpret the law to ensure the public is protected."
Orange County supervisors plan to meet Tuesday to discuss a proposal to compensate off-duty employees who are wounded while saving lives in a "mass casualty" incident out of state.
County Supervisor Shawn Nelson, one of the officials who submitted the proposal, said Orange County’s executive officer must ultimately come back with recommendations about which county employees could fall under the policy and the compensation parameters.
"We employ a lot of people with unique life-saving skills," Nelson said. "Let’s put some process in place for in case this happens again, and let’s decide whether it doesn’t only have to be law enforcement because we might have a public health nurse who’s in a position to help."
The shooting in Las Vegas involved more than 40 Orange County Sheriff’s personnel who were attending the three-day Route 91 Harvest Festival.
The Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs did not identify the four off-duty deputies who were hurt, but said one of them was shot.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department previously said a deputy was shot in the abdomen and thigh as he ushered his wife and another woman to safety.
The deputies’ union added that it’s worried that any new policy won’t cover long-term medical care. One county supervisor said that that would require the intervention of the courts or the state Legislature, The Orange County Register reported.