The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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December 26, 2012

Police union seeks more help for Newtown officers

— Some of the police officers who responded to the elementary school shooting in Newtown are so traumatized they haven't been working, but they have to use sick time and could soon be at risk of going without a paycheck, a union official said Wednesday.

The union, Council 15 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, is seeking more generous assistance in talks with the town's insurer. It is also reaching out to lawmakers and the governor's office with proposals to modify state law and expand workers' compensation benefits for officers who witness horrific crime scenes.

"The insurer for the town has taken a position that these officers are entitled to only what the statute allows. Unfortunately for these officers, the statute doesn't allow any benefits," said Eric Brown, an attorney for the union, which represents nearly 4,000 officers around Connecticut.

A gunman shot his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14 and slaughtered 20 first-graders and six educators. The gunman, who had also killed his mother that morning, committed suicide as police arrived.

Brown said that the number of officers "critically affected" by the tragedy is below 15 and that a small number of them are not currently working.

A spokesman for Newtown police, Lt. George Sinko, said the officers are generally holding up well.

"A couple of them are taking it harder than some of the other ones," he said. "The things that the officers had to experience underscores the need to support them in every way possible."

Authorities say the victims were shot with a high-powered, military-style rifle loaded with ammunition designed to inflict maximum damage. All the victims had been shot at least twice, the medical examiner said, and as many as 11 times. Two victims were pronounced dead at a hospital, while all others died in the school.

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