Friday, December 27, 2013
C.A. Rejects Limitation on Officer’s Disability Retirement
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A peace officer who is able to continue in his current assignment, but cannot carry out the normal range of law enforcement duties due to a job-related injury, is entitled to disability retirement, the First District Court of Appeal has ruled.
Div. Four said the California Public Employees’ Retirement System was wrong as a matter of law when it denied former California Highway Patrol Officer Perry Beckley’s 2006 application for disability retirement. Justice Maria Rivera’s Nov. 27 opinion was certified yesterday for publication.
Beckley took regular retirement in 2008 after 23 years with the CHP. He spent most of that time on patrol, but transferred to a public affairs officer position in 2004. After a medical examination revealed that he could not perform the “14 critical tasks” required of a CHP officer—which include being able to lift a 200-pound victim from a vehicle and drag him 50 feet, and to subdue and handcuff a resisting subject—his commander sent him home on leave.
He then applied for disability retirement. He said his inability to perform critical tasks stemmed from wrist and arm pain that resulted from having to file a large number of reports, and from a back injury sustained while getting out of his state vehicle, and that he had been off work temporarily on several occasions before taking the public affairs position, due to flare-ups of his back condition.
He did not dispute that he was able to perform the usual duties of a public affairs officer, although he occasionally had to perform other tasks associated with active law enforcement work. The CalPERS board concluded that because he was able to perform the duties of his last assignment, he did not have a “disability” within the meaning of the relevant statutes, Government Code §§21151(a) and 20026.
Alameda Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo disagreed. He said CalPERS committed an error of law by concluding that if Beckley was unable to perform the 14 tasks, but was able to perform the usual duties of a public affairs officer, he was not entitled to disability retirement.
Rivera said the trial judge was correct.
“As part of the job description of an officer, the CHP has enumerated the ‘14 critical tasks’ an officer must be able to carry out in order to perform those duties,” she wrote. “Beckley’s position as PAO was not considered a light duty assignment, and he was discharged because he was not able to perform all of the 14 tasks. This evidence amply supports the conclusion that…the ability to perform all tasks required of a CHP officer is part of the ‘usual’ duties of his job.”
The case is Beckley v. Board of Administration of California Public Employees’ Retirement System, 13 S.O.S. 6674.
Copyright 2013, Metropolitan News Company