Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Governor orders flags lowered for P.E. death

The governor of Illinois has ordered U.S. and Illinois flags lowered through Friday in memory of Hindale (Ill.) Fire Department Deputy Chief Mark Johnson, 55. Johnson apparently died suddenly while exercising alone in the fire station's work-out room.

With all due respect to Deputy Chief Johnson and his family, this is NOT a line-of-duty death. It is being declared so, which will result most likely with an honors funeral and monetary settlements associated with other line-of-duty deaths.

There is something seriously wrong in this country with the rush to claim "line-of-duty" deaths for firefighters, police officers and others. Working out on exercise equipment in the fire station should not be considered "line-of-duty" death. Yes, he was "on duty"; no, he wasn't fighting a fire.

I understand that my stand will incite the ire of local firefighters. So be it. The public must take a stand against these policies.

In Woodstock we have the Woodstock Fire & Rescue District. Does the public know the definition of "line of duty" for deaths or injuries of firefighters? Or the same for police officers or deputies? Or paramedics? Or public officials? This should all be spelled out in advance, so there is no argument during times of high emotions.

If a police officer is driving a police car on duty, unless he is involved in an active police matter, his death should not be "line of duty" death, which carries with it substantial death benefits. If it is "just" a traffic crash because he or the other driver caused it, then it shouldn't qualify for the high death benefit payments.

He is just like any other employee of a business who operates a "company" vehicle in the course of his employment.

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