When it comes to taking care of the police officers who responded to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and worked on the pile in the aftermath, the message can be as important as the money. They deserve every form of support we can muster, particularly when it comes to their health. We’ve been failing some of them, in a small way, and that should be fixed.
Many police officers who were with the NYPD on 9/11 and developed illnesses because of the work they did now have medical needs related to that work. Those still with the NYPD get unlimited line-of-duty sick leave benefits to deal with cancer and other illnesses. But officers who have left the NYPD for other forces, like Suffolk County’s or in local villages, often don’t. They must use their own time.
A bill sponsored by State Sen. Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn) has been introduced to fix that by having the state pick up the tab for that extra sick leave. It should be passed.
There’s not a lot of money involved, as advocates say the bill would affect only a few hundred officers. And its impact is limited: with 9/11 now a 16-year-old tragedy, it won’t be long before nearly all the officers affected by this legislation will have retired.
Most such officers could go on disability, but many say they don’t want to. To them, the job is also a passion, and very often it is the thing that keeps them fighting through illness and pain. And while many police officers, particularly on Long Island, get extremely generous sick leave, that’s a right they bargained for and won, and it does not mean they should suffer for their extraordinary service.
As much as possible, the sacrifices of 9/11 responders shouldn’t cost them any more than they already have. — The editorial board