Police Disability Controversy

Via The Times Tribune:

A Scranton (PA) police officer who retired on a disability pension is now a detective in Monroe County, drawing ire from the city’s police union president and several council members.


Michael Kreischer, was 33 and worked for the city for 13 years when he was awarded a work-related disability pension in December 2002, for arm and hand injuries, records show. He collects a monthly pension of about $2,244, or $26,928 per year.


Despite his disability, the Monroe County district attorney’s office hired Kreischer in August as a part-time detective at $18 an hour.


He was able to legally accept the position because Scranton’s pension ordinance does not preclude disabled retirees from taking other jobs — even if it is identical or similar to the position the person held.


The loophole has long frustrated council members, who called upon the city to alter the ordinances. Concerned about the viability of the pension fund, the police union supports that request, said union president Paul Helring.


“It doesn’t state anywhere you can’t be a cop if you are on disability,” Helring said. “Our guys are mad. It’s a slap in the face, especially with the pension fund being distressed.”


Kreischer, who also owns and operates a private investigation firm, defends his Monroe County detective job. Even though it’s law enforcement, the detective position differs significantly from the work he did as a police officer, he said.


“I don’t have any confrontations with subjects,” he said. “It’s all investigative work and processing paperwork. It doesn’t conflict with my injuries.”


Kreischer declined to detail his health issues that to led to his disability pension. He did confirm they are related to injuries he suffered when a dog attacked him. A pit bull bit Kreischer on the arm, leg and stomach on March 1, 2002.


He said he advised Monroe County officials of his work limitations before he started there and they accommodate them.


Kreischer is not the only disabled officer who later took a job in a similar filed. The issue first came to light in December 2014, when a Sunday Times investigation revealed two disabled police officers work as prison guards. The paper also found at least six disabled police officers and firefighters who work in various positions with Lackawanna County.


Council president Joe Wechsler and councilmen Bill Gaughan, Wayne Evans, Pat Rogan and Tim Perry said those cases highlight the importance of addressing shortcomings within the city’s pension ordinances.


“If you are getting a disability pension with the city and go into a similar line of work, you should not be able to get a disability pension,” Gaughan said.


Wechsler said Kreischer’s case is particularly frustrating.


“This case is police to police,” he said. “That raises a question, why can’t he do police work for the city?”


The situation does not sit well with active police officers, Helring said. They want the city and pension board to limit or halt the pensions of disabled retirees if they become re-employed.


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