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Is location relevant when protecting and serving causes injuries?

Law enforcement is not a typical “nine to five” job. Officers see their commitment as something limited by hours, time of day or even location.

The daily grind inherent in the vocation does require time off to rest, recuperate and recharge. For some, attending an out-of-state concert on October 1 was meant to relieve stress, not create more.

Approximately 200 off-duty police officers from California found themselves at a Las Vegas music festival when, in a split second, they went from spectators to protectors when shots rang out from a nearby hotel.

While the tragedy represented the largest mass shooting on U.S. soil, lives were saved by these brave men and women instinctively putting their well-being on the line.

With the sacrifices came injuries.

Upon returning to their home state, four Orange County sheriff’s deputies filed workers’ compensation claims for injuries suffered while protecting residents from many other states. Their claims were subsequently denied.

Labor code in California requires public agencies to pay benefits to off-duty officers injured while engaged in “protection or preservation of life or property, or the preservation of the peace anywhere in this state.”

Apparently, no provisions exist for these acts beyond the state’s borders.

Leon Page, the attorney for Orange County, claims no ill will. He cites the law as clear and lacking any “wiggle room” for the officers’ heroics.

The deputy sheriffs are not giving up. In fact, they are continuing their legal battle that many consider potentially precedent setting not only in Orange County, but also surrounding counties throughout Southern California.

The Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs backs the quartet, claiming that the issue is anything but clear and announcing their plans to pursue litigation. Workers’ compensation attorneys see a path to victory for the officers. They consider location as potentially limiting in public policy, if not irrelevant in the “preservation of life” performed by the officers.

Should they prevail, the deputy sheriffs would be eligible for time off and early retirement.

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