Arizona Public Safety Personnel Costing Millions in Insurance Claims

September 11, 2008

Tucson and Pima County officials say injured police officers, firefighters and sheriff’s deputies are costing taxpayers millions in insurance claims.

According to records from the city and county, injured firefighters and police officers have, since 2002, cost Tucson $14 million in insurance claims.

Over the same time span Pima County has paid out $6.2 million dollars in claims to injured deputies.

The state says injuries to Tucson firefighters and police officers are double the state average.

The Industrial Commission of Arizona reported that in 2005, the most recent year for which data is available, there were 10.9 injuries for every 100 full-time employees working in public safety activities in the state, and 10.3 of those were injuries to police.

Of those injuries, about 2,300 total, 500 involved time off to recover from injuries and 400 involved light duty.

In Tucson in 2007, the police department’s 1,100 officers sustained 256 injuries and the city’s 700 firefighters had 268 injuries.

The state says it works out to 23.3 injuries per 100 officers and 38.3 injuries per 100 firefighters.

Over the past five years, the city has paid between $800,000 and $3 million per year on medical expenses related to police injuries, and between $330,000 and $715,000 per year on hurt firefighters.

In Pima County in the past five years, it paid between $252,000 and $988,000 per year on costs related to injuries to its 500 or so sheriff’s deputies.

Both Tucson police and fire department officials say they are working to cut down the number of injuries to public safety workers.

It is department policy that firefighters get yearly physicals, said Capt. Norm Carlton, a spokesman for the Tucson Fire Department. Peer fitness trainers work closely with the city-appointed doctor to address any trends the doctor notices.

The number of firefighter injuries is up because the number of firefighters increased by about 170 from 2002 to 2008 and the department has gradually placed more emphasis on reporting all injuries, especially exposures to potentially dangerous substances, Carlton said.

The Tucson Police Department has also made changes to reduce injuries, spokesman Sgt. Mark Robinson said.

“There are things that we would do in the 70s that we would never consider doing now,” Robinson said, referring to detailed pursuit and arrest policies.

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