Top photo: Sgt. Dave Archer displays a bandaged hand and wrist, a reminder of the Jan. 13 scuffle that sparked an area-wide re-evaluation of the way injured police officers are compensated.
Bottom photo: Patrolman Chris Blila has said the 50 percent disability salary he'll receive won't even cover his bills.
The City of Brazil has teamed up with area banks to give Wabash Valley residents an opportunity to assist two Brazil police officers injured in the line of duty.
Mayor Tom Arthur and Clerk-Treasurer Tracy Webster have established accounts to accept donations for Sgt. Dave Archer and Patrolman Chris Blila at a number of area banks. Arthur, Webster and numerous other city officials were floored when they learned the injured officers were entitled to much less than the average city employee. Since then, media coverage of the officers' situation prompted several residents of Brazil and beyond to offer financial assistance.
"We just decided to go ahead and open up the bank accounts so anybody that wishes to can go ahead and make a donation," he said.
First National Bank and Trust, Fifth Third, First Financial and Riddell banks have all agreed to participate in the effort, accepting donations at any of their Wabash Valley branches. Arthur said the money will be withdrawn as needed and split evenly between the two officers.
The mayor characterized the move as a temporary fix, adding that he and members of the city council would need to take a hard look at ways to avoid a similar situation in the future.
"Short-term, we're trying to make sure these officers are taken care of," he said. "Once we've got this ironed out, we'll start looking at other options."
Sgt. Dave Archer and Patrolman Chris Blila sustained injuries to their hands and arms when a Jan. 13 domestic disturbance investigation turned violent. They will appear before the city's Police Pension Board Thursday to request leave-of-absence pay from the city, under which they'll receive 50 percent of a first-class patrolman's salary.
Because disability compensation for police and fire workers' salaries is handled by the Public Employee Retirement Fund (PERF), those workers cannot legally receive the 67 percent workman's comp salary benefits a city worker in any other department would be entitled to.
Brazil Police Chief Mark Loudermilk has suggested the city extend the cap on the number of sick days (60) police and fire workers can accumulate over their careers, but Arthur said a similar measure was roundly defeated during his tenure on city council.