Stitt signs measure to make sure injured police officers receive full benefits

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Legislation that would ensure police officers who are seriously injured in the line of duty receive full disability benefits has been signed into law.

House Bill 3330 establishes the ‘Sergeant Schoolfield Line of Duty Disability Act.’

The act is named after Matthew Schoolfield, a 10-year Chickasha Police Department veteran who was shot three times in the line of duty in 2017 while serving a search warrant. Schoolfield’s vest protected him from being hit by at least another two rounds.

“One round went through my helmet down the right side of my face through my ear,” Schoolfield said when he spoke with KFOR in August 2019. “The one that went in my forearm, that actually severed my arm other than a few tendons and some skin tissue.”

Photo goes with story
Sgt. Matthew Schoolfield shows the scars left behind by the shooting.

“While doing his job, Matthew sustained severe injuries, especially to his right arm, in a violent attack that resulted in him not being able to continue working as a police officer,” Sen. Lonnie Paxton said. “However, because of how disability benefits are figured within the Police Retirement System, he can’t get full disability, which would still only get him less than half his regular pay. With no regard for his personal safety, he put his life at risk every day like so many other heroes around our state. These officers deserve better, and this bill will ensure that they can get full disability when they sustain such life-altering injuries.”

The bill modifies disability pension standards for Oklahoma Police Pension and Retirement System (OPPRS) members by requiring the OPPRS’ Board of Trustees to determine if a police officer who suffers an injury through a violent act, while performing their duties as an officer, is 100 percent disabled and entitled to a 100 percent normal disability benefit.

After the shooting, Schoolfield was on light duty at the Chickasha Police Department for almost a year, but he was taken off that line of work in 2019.

“It kind of seemed like everybody was gonna take care of me and not to worry about things, and then a contract comes up,” he told KFOR in August of 2019.

KFOR learned in March that Schoolfield’s position at the police department was terminated.

Chickasha city officials released a statement to KFOR in March, saying Schoolfield was offered another position with the department.

“Over the last few weeks, considerable misleading and at times false information has been distributed by third parties regarding the City’s position concerning the continued employment of Sergeant Matthew Schoofield. As a rule, the City treats personnel matters as confidential. It will continue to observe this policy in connection with any medical issues related to Sergeant Schoolfield.

However, on March 2, 2020, Sergeant Schoolfield gave an interview to Channel 4 news. In that interview, he indicated that he had been offered another position with the City but that it “was for far less money.” Sergeant Schoolfield was offered a civilian position with the Chickasha Police Department in the newly created position of Training and Property/Evidence Room Coordinator. This is a full-time position which affords the individual a full range of employment benefits including, but not limited to, health insurance, vacation leave, sick leave, holiday leave and participation in the Oklahoma Municipal Retirement Fund. The base rate of pay assigned to this position is commensurate with the duties assigned and is close to the base rate of pay that Sergeant Schoolfield was receiving as an active duty Sergeant.

The City regrets that a mutually acceptable understanding could not be reached on the offer of full-employment extended to Sergeant Schoolfield. The City appreciates his years of honorable and dedicated service to the City and its citizens. It is hoped that he can return to active employment with the City at another position in the future.”

CITY OF CHICKASHA

On Thursday, Gov. Stitt signed HB 3330 into law.

It goes into effect immediately.

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