A police officer charged yesterday that while top police officials move quickly through the disability retirement system, he has had to wait six months, without pay, to have his case heard.
During that time officer William S. Franck said he has had to sell his refrigerator and camera "in order to eat," and has been living off the lifetime savings of his parents.
"I am disabled, I laid my life on the line for them, and they said, 'well sorry about you, Jack,'" Franck said yesterday.
Franck was injured last April when he was kicked and beaten by a suspect during an arrest at Logan Circle.He underwent surgery for a ruptured disc in June, and his doctor, Michael W. Dennis, recommended him for disability retirement last November, according to Franck.
Since then, he said, he "has been getting the runaround" at the police and fire clinic, where disability claims are processed. He said he had no idea where his case stood until he got Sen. Lovett P. Weicker Jr. (R-Conn.) involved in his case earlier this month.
Franck said last night he still does not know whether or when he will appear before the retirement board. City officials acknowledged that his case is receiving special attention because of the intervention of Weicker.
While word of his situation has become known because of congressional attention, union officials yesterday were quick to use Franck's case to illustrate what they believe are weaknesses in the retirement system.
"This case is clear-cut. The man was injured last April 20, clearly in the line of duty, and he should have been taken care of by now," charged Peter Lyons, an attorney for the local of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers.
Lyons testified last week before a Senate subcommittee looking into the retirement system that top ranking officers were given "preferential treatment" in being speedily processed through the system while rank and file men had to wait long periods, often without pay, to have their cases heard.
In the last two months police chief Maurice J. Cullinane, fire chief Burton W. Johnson and assistant police chief Tilmon B. O'Bryant have all received disability retirements within two weeks of announcement of their intention to seek them. Their disability retirements entitle them to tax-free pensions of about $33,000 for each.
The system is "a crime," Franck said yesterday. "I knew walking 14th Street that I could be shot, but I felt the department would take care of me."
Dr. Robert F. Dyer, director of the police and fire clinic, which processes disability retirements to the Police and Firemen's Retirement and Relief Board, was unavailable yesterday for comment.
Franck said yesterday he was particularly irked at O'Bryant's disability retirement because it was O'Bryant, as chief of the department's administrative services division, who refused to allow Franck to receive pay while he awaited a decision.
"He cut me off last September," Franck said, explaining that his sick leave was exhausted. "I asked him if he had looked at the doctor's (Dennis') report and he said he didn't have to - he was the chief and his decision was final."
O'Bryant has been unavailable for comment since it was learned he was seeking disability retirement. He refused again yesterday to talk to a reporter.
Meanwhile, the D.C. Police Association yesterday charged the IBPO local with "making political mileage" out of the current controversy over disability retirements. The police association is competing with the IBPO to become the exclusive bargaining agent for the city's police department. Voting is to take place in the coming weeks, with ballots to be counted March 17.
Joseph Goldring, president of the police association, at the same time acknowledged yesterday that he feels strongly about the system. "While these high ranking officials were ushered through the systems like kings, dozens of officers and sergeants who have been enduring real physical suffering have been treated as the serfs of this modern-day monarch," Goldring said in a statement released to the press.
There have been allegations that recent attacks against O'Bryant, who is black, are racially motivated. Ron Hampton, president of the D.C. Afro-American Police Officers Association, which claims to represent views of night he did not believe this was black city police officers, said last the case. "O'Bryant's not a black - he's a system person," Hampton said. "He's got a lot of heat because he was in charge of the injury reports. He had direct control over whether an officer received pay."
Lyons of the IBPO has charged that O'Bryant turned down all 35 such requests submitted by that union. Twenty of the requests came from black officers, Lyons said.