SEAN ROBINSON February 21, 2001, Wednesday Copyright 2001 Scripps Howard, Inc. Scripps Howard News Service February 21, 2001, Wednesday
(FEDERAL WAY, Wash.) -- A police officer has filed a $57,424 claim against the city, saying he was forced to wear a heavy gun belt and holster that damaged his hip.
Officer Roger Baldwin, a 5-year veteran of the department, filed his claim Jan. 30. He has not worked as an officer since November 2000.
His claim seeks $5,452 in sick time, $2,972 in vacation time, $9,000 in lost wages and $40,000 in general damages.
"My big thing is I just want to be back paid for the pay that I've missed," he said. "It seems to be a pretty simple thing."
Baldwin, 29, said he noticed discomfort shortly after joining the force in fall 1996. In June 2000, he sought medical treatment for bursitis in his hip. By November of last year, the pain increased to the point he no longer could walk, he said.
He said city police administrators last year denied him permission to wear a suspender-style nylon harness used by officers in Tacoma and deputies of the Pierce County and King County sheriffs departments.
Last week, Baldwin met with Anne Kirkpatrick, Federal Way's new police chief. He said Kirkpatrick was receptive to a possible change of gear.
"That was a very successful meeting - a night and day difference," Baldwin said.
"She has been very open and very understanding. She said flat out if (a suspender belt is) what it takes to get you back to work I have no problems with it."
Kirkpatrick, who started as chief Jan. 29, confirmed she met with Baldwin but stopped short of saying she had given him permission to wear different gear.
"I have been open to explore all options," she said.
Currently, Federal Way officers wear a black leather gunbelt and underbelt to hold their gear.
Baldwin said the apparatus, which weighs between 12 and 18 pounds, caused "excruciating pain" because of the pressure against his hip.
"It affects the way you think," he said. "It's a miserable day at work."
Police officers in Tacoma, Pierce County and King County use the suspender-style nylon harness Baldwin prefers. It is not standard issue but is offered as an option in those jurisdictions.
"We've had them for years," said Pierce County sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer. "Not everybody wears them, but they're there if you want them. The straps go over your shoulders. It takes some of the weight off of your hips."
The same practice applies in Tacoma, where police have had a suspender option for several years, spokesman Jim Mattheis said.
In King County, officers wear nylon belts. They may wear "tactical suspenders" if a doctor recommends it, and if officers purchase the gear themselves, said spokesman Travis DeFries.
Though Baldwin may receive permission to wear different gear, he hasn't withdrawn the damage claim. The city hasn't responded to it.
"We're still evaluating," said City Attorney Bob Sterbank. "I could say from what I've seen so far, it's unlikely that we'll be doing anything other than denying the claim."