Report: Police Chief Creates Unit to Review Comp Claims
Thursday, June 17, 2021 | 0
The Fresno Bee reports that the city and its top cop are looking into the possibility that Police Department employees are abusing the workers’ compensation system.
Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama created an investigative unit to manage workers’ compensation claims and follow up with those who are out on extended leave with injuries.
The chief reportedly suggested that the city’s department pays officers more to stay home than it does for them to report to work.
“What we have here is we have a system like I’ve never seen before,” the chief reportedly said. “The fact that you can be off of work, and you could actually make more money than you do coming to work, so there’s not a whole lot of incentive. I believe that there was very little to no accountability before.”
California’s Labor Code makes police officers eligible for up to one year of salary continuation benefits in lieu of temporary disability. Other city and state officials have complained about the law.
Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin, in a 2015 report on comp costs in the city’s Police Department, also cited salary continuation benefits as a concern and said it creates a “perverse incentive to stay home.”
Former Gov. Jerry Brown, in a 2015 veto message for a bill that would have given Oceanside lifeguards salary continuation in lieu of TD, that costs of benefits paid under Labor Code Section 4850 “have increased at an alarming rate.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2019 said school districts might not weather the "the addition of a well-intentioned but costly benefit" in vetoing a bill that would have given peace officers 4850 benefits.
Meanwhile, Fresno City Manager Thomas Esqueda reportedly said the Police Department is taking the lead in investigating what’s happening with its own claims because if anyone is “gaming the workers’ comp system, that’s criminal activity.”
The Bee reports the department’s workers’ compensation costs increased from $4.96 million 10 years ago to $11.4 million in the 2022 budget.
The city started an audit of Police Department claims, but the review was never completed.