Opinion: This is no way to treat the brave

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  • Officer Taylor Beach

  • 1

  • Officer Taylor Beach

  • 1

Taylor Beach is fine.

Hopefully.

You may recall that Beach was one of three Coeur d’Alene police officers involved in a frightening incident back in February — a sudden exchange of gunfire that left her partner, Charles Hatley, critically wounded.

It started as a routine traffic stop at Government Way and Hattie Street, but Officer Kelly Mongan noticed that a passenger, Charles Ware, had an outstanding felony warrant hanging over him.

Ordered out of the car, Ware began firing at Hatley and Beach almost immediately. A bullet struck Hatley in the abdomen.

After returning fire, Beach risked her life by remaining exposed while she hauled the wounded Hatley into their cruiser.

She rushed him to the Kootenai Health emergency room.

“It was a heroic action, staying in the line of fire like that to protect her partner,” said Lee White, Coeur d’Alene police chief. “It’s very likely that she saved Charlie’s life.

“What you hope for officers involved in something like that shooting is that they not only recover physically, but mentally.

“Shooting at someone (Ware died from police fire) and putting your own life on the line is not an everyday event. It can get to you.

“I’ve seen some officers who had terrible emotional reactions long after an incident, really good law enforcement people who ultimately had to walk away from the job.”

Beach herself, who knew she wanted to be a police officer when she was 8 years old, conceded that events like the February shooting can be haunting.

“It’s not something that just goes away,” Beach said.

CHIEF WHITE has remained focused on that fatal shooting for another, practical reason.

Workers’ compensation law in Idaho provides financial help for stress-related disability only if a police officer, firefighter or first responder is physically injured.

If Beach, for instance, began suffering disabling nightmares and couldn’t continue working as a police officer, she would not be entitled to any help because, well …

She wasn’t shot.

On the other hand, if Hatley became continually rattled after nearly being killed, he would qualify for workers’ comp.

“That distinction simply isn’t right,” White said.

No, it’s not.

For that reason, statewide police and firefighting organizations have been talking to legislators in an effort to get things changed.

Chief White has researched legislation in other states that Idaho could easily copy.

“It almost certainly was just a mistake in language originally,” said Sen. Mary Souza, R-Coeur d’Alene. “We need conversation with all the groups involved here and make sure any change is done correctly.”

Rep. Don Cheatham, R-Post Falls, is a favorite to win the state senate seat vacated by Bob Nonini, and he intends to be on the case during the 2019 legislative session.

“I want to be all over this (issue),” Cheatham said. “I hope to draft a bill that makes things equitable.”

IT SEEMS incredible that such a mistake could have been made in the first place.

You’d think every last bit of energy would be spent on legislation to help those people we ask to protect us — and put their own lives on the line to do so.

Hopefully, there is now irreversible momentum to get the language right and provide a safety net for society’s brave guardians.

Like Taylor Beach, for instance.

She’s back at work after a month off, but there’s a lot of life ahead — with no guarantees that the night in February won’t still affect her.

Down in Boise, there was a brutal stabbing spree in early July. Police, firefighters and medical personnel who responded found several child victims.

A 3-year-old girl died from her injuries.

“It certainly does take a toll anytime a child is injured, and in this case multiple children severely injured,” Capt. Ron Winegar of the Boise Police Department told a local TV station. “That’s tough for anybody.

“And so to say that they can deal with that, and it to not have any effect on them and their personal life, or even professional life, would be problematic.

“It’s just impossible.”

All of Boise’s law enforcement, fire and emergency medical groups have lined up to join the conversation about making sure workers’ compensation would cover PTSD in Idaho — whether the victim is physically injured or not.

“I think everyone agrees on the concept and what needs to be done,” said Rep. Paul Amador, R-Coeur d’Alene.

“It’s all about getting the language correct.”

In a nutshell …

Taylor Beach needs to know that the state has her back.

•••

Steve Cameron is a columnist for The Press.

A Brand New Day appears Wednesday through Saturday each week. Steve’s sports column runs on Tuesday.

Email: scameron@cdapress.com.

Twitter:@BrandNewDayCDA

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