Sacramento, CA - The Orange County Register reports that county officials say they will stand behind their sheriff's deputies who are injured while trying to help others, even when they're off duty and out of state. County supervisors voted Sept. 10, to extend workers compensation benefits to sworn employees who were hurt during the 2017 mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas, and to county law enforcement caught up in future domestic terrorism events who use their training to protect civilians or assist local first responders.
Off-duty officers from several Southern California communities were attending the Las Vegas concert when a gunman fired on the crowd. Some were shot or received other injuries while leading people to safety, helping secure the area and providing others aid.
Orange County rejected workers comp claims filed by four of its deputies who were hurt, because California law at the time specifically referred to peace-keeping activities "anywhere in this state," but did not mention actions outside the state's boundaries.
A bill from Assemblyman Tom Daly, D-Anaheim, that passed in 2018 clarified the law so that California peace officers injured off duty while responding to out-of-state crimes and life-threatening emergencies can collect public injury benefits. Now, Orange County has enshrined in its own policies that officers in good standing hurt in the Las Vegas shooting or such future incidents are eligible for workers compensation.
The new policy's cost to county taxpayers is unknown because it will depend on how many claims are filed and what benefits are awarded.
Deputy Mark Seamans, hit by gunfire, was among the Orange County deputies whose claims were initially rejected. As Seamans told a reporter shortly after the incident, he never stopped to worry about his own safety while pulling people out of harm's way. "The switch turned on, and it became everything we train for," he said at the time.
The county's new policy doesn't guarantee off-duty deputies' claims will be paid, only that they'll be considered even if the incident takes place in another state. The policy would not apply to claims of psychological injury or events outside the U.S. On Wednesday, a county spokeswoman said two claims by officers who were shot in Las Vegas are due to be approved.
Since Daly's bill passed last year, San Bernardino County accepted a claim from one deputy injured at the Route 91 festival, county spokeswoman Felisa Cardona said. California Peace Officers Association spokesman Shaun Rundle said he wasn't aware of other agencies making policy changes as Orange County did.