The Violently Injured Police Officers Organization (V.I.P.O.) would like to share progress made in State Houses across the country on behalf of law enforcement personnel who have been critically injured while serving, and to continue its call for action in its home state of Massachusetts.
Co-founded by Somerville Police Detective Mario Oliveira and Woburn Police Officer Bob DeNapoli, both of whom were forced to retire after being seriously injured in violent incidents, V.I.P.O. is committed to helping to ensure that violently injured police officers across the Commonwealth and country receive adequate compensation and support.
V.I.P.O. has created model legislation for states that would ensure officers who are permanently disabled as a result of violent assaults are able to receive 100 percent of their pay until they reach retirement age, as well as continued coverage from the health insurance they received as officers. The model bills also seek to remove limits on how much income permanently disabled officers are able to receive from other jobs they are still able to perform.
“Our model legislation helps officers on two fronts. It helps ensure that permanently injured officers can continue to provide for themselves and their families, and it also helps the injured first responder feel like they’re part of society again — that they’re contributing, taking care of their families, still able to earn and still able to achieve their goals,” Oliveira said. “These things help a person heal both physically and mentally, and I know this because I’m living proof of it.”
The legislation was first filed in Massachusetts four years ago, but it has died after being assigned to committees during each of those four years.
In the meantime, similar legislation has been filed and is under consideration in New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Georgia, and is expected to soon be filed in Florida, Arizona and Colorado.
Both Kentucky and Oklahoma have introduced, debated and passed the legislation in the years since Massachusetts first began considering it.
Laws vary from state to state, but in Massachusetts, line-of-duty death benefits for eligible police officers include a one-time state payment of $300,000 to their spouse and a one-time federal benefit to the family, and spouses receive 100 percent of the officer’s pay for the remainder of their lives.
But officers who are forced to retire with an accidental disability — like the ones Oliveira and DiNapoli suffered — are only eligible to receive up to 72 percent of their regular salary, and that includes officers who are severely injured by incidents of violence in the line of duty.
In Massachusetts, this means violently injured police officers who are unable to continue working due to their injuries are limited to 72 percent of their pay, tax-free, and limited to working no more than 1,200 hours and earning no more than $15,000 per year from other jobs they are still able to perform.
When Detective Oliveira got home from the hospital after being shot six times while serving an arrest warrant on a gun-trafficking suspect in 2010, he found himself facing both physical recovery, and the stress of figuring out how he would support his 3-year-old child and pregnant wife.
“There I was on just 72 percent of my salary, no details, no court time, and with no possibility of earning all the supplemental income I used to have access to,” Oliveira said. “All of that was taken away from me just as my wife and I were expecting a second child.”
This year is the fourth consecutive year the bill has been introduced in the Massachusetts Legislature. The bill has passed the Joint Committee on Public Service each of those four years, but has not emerged from the Joint Committee on Ways and Means before the legislature recessed each year, killing all pending bills.
“State and local leaders across the Commonwealth and country are recognizing National Police Week this week, and I urge them to recognize the service and sacrifice of law enforcement officers in 2022 by considering and passing legislation to ensure that officers whose careers are ended by violence are taken care of by the states and communities they serve,” said Oliveira. “It takes far more than words and recognition to make officers who have lost their careers and livelihood whole again. Myself, Officer DiNapoli and the Violently Injured Police Officers Organization are asking legislators and leaders to take concrete action this year to support those officers who have lost so much.”
To learn more about the Violently Injured Police Officers Organization, visit: https://vipo911.org/.