Newtown Conn. first responders in need of extra help

7:30 PM, Dec 27, 2012   |    comments
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By Louisa Moller

NEWTOWN, Conn. (WTIC/CNN) - Connecticut's police union is fighting for help.

It says first responders to this month's elementary school massacre in Newtown could have long-lasting trauma from what they saw that day.

One can only imagine the terror felt by first responders as they ran into Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, and the carnage they saw, even more disturbing.

"I think they are very resilient. They're doing the best they can," said Eric Brown, lawyer for AFSCME Council.

Brown says their best may not be good enough.

"The thing about these traumas that we've read about, and we've seen this happen in Colorado in the past and Virginia Tech, is that the effects of this type of emotional trauma are long-lasting and essentially chronic," he said.

That's why AFSCME is calling for help. Specifically for the five to 15 police officers who were first to arrive on the scene of the deadly shooting.

"What we're looking for basically, is a funding mechanism to make sure that if officers need to take time off from work, there's money available to continue their paychecks," said Brown.

Right now, Newtown police officers get 10 paid sick days a year, but Brown argues that is not enough to cope with a tragedy of this magnitude.

And to make matters worse, Brown says workman's compensation in Connecticut currently provides very little coverage when it comes to mental and emotional issues.

"Worker's comp provides for mental health in the very small circumstance where a police officer is involved in a use of force, so where either he fires his weapon or is under threat of someone using deadly force against him," said Brown.

And that didn't happen. State Police Lieutenant Paul Vance said no responding officer fired their weapons at the scene. Brown says even that can have an affect on them.

"That leaves them with a very helpless feeling. It makes them second guess some of what they had done that day and that's very difficult for them to deal with," said Brown.

He says the union has talked with Connecticut's governor and the U.S. Attorney General about the issue. He hopes there could be legislative changes in the works.



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