Are California peace officers covered for injuries incurred while responding to crimes or assisting victims while they are off duty and out of state?
That is now a big issue in light of the mass injuries in Las Vegas.
According to news reports, there may have been over 200 California police officers attending the Route 91 Harvest country music festival in Las Vegas near the Mandalay Bay Hotel which became a mass casualty event.
Many of those officers attempted to assist victims of the shootings.
Officers injured apparently include ones from the counties of Orange, Riverside, San Bernadino and Los Angeles.
California Labor Code § 3600.2 says the following:
(a) Whenever any peace officer, as defined in Section 50920 of the Government Code, is injured, dies, or is disabled from performing his duties as a peace officer by reason of engaging in the apprehension or attempted apprehension of law violators or suspected law violators, or protection or preservation of life or property, or the preservation of the peace anywhere in this state, including the local jurisdiction in which he is employed, but is not at the time acting under the immediate direction of his employer, he or his dependents, as the case may be, shall be accorded by his employer all of the same benefits, including the benefits of this division, which he or they would have received had that peace officer been acting under the immediate direction of his employer. Any injury, disability, or death incurred under the circumstances described in this section shall be deemed to have arisen out of and been sustained in the course of employment for purposes of workers compensation and all other benefits.
(b) Nothing in this section shall be deemed to:
(1) Require the extension of any benefits to a peace officer who at the time of his injury, death, or disability is acting for compensation from one other than the city, county, city and county, judicial district, or town of his primary employment.
(2) Require the extension of any benefits to a peace officer employed by a city, county, city and county, judicial district, or town which by charter, ordinance, or departmental regulation, whether now in force or hereafter enacted or promulgated, expressly prohibits the activity giving rise to the injury, disability, or death.
(3) Enlarge or extend the authority of any peace officer to make an arrest; provided, however, that illegality of the arrest shall not affect the extension of benefits by reason of this act if the peace officer reasonably believed that the arrest was not illegal.
This provision does include the phrase “anywhere in this state”, but the argument is being made by some that the statute is ambiguous and that the officers injured in Las Vegas should be covered.
It is easy to see that these situations could come up. It is not just events that occur in Las Vegas or Reno.
For example, anyone who has been to South Lake Tahoe knows that amid all the hotels, bars and restaurants it is just a step into Nevada. At any given time there could be multiple peace officers on holiday in the area who might respond to an incident.
If a California peace officer is in a Stateline, Nevada casino and observes a shooter firing at individuals along the California-Nevada border, would we as a policy matter want to discourage him from tackling the shooter? We want to encourage peace officers to help in such situations, and clearly there are Californians who might benefit.
It is quite possible that some of the Las Vegas claims will wind up at different WCAB district offices with some being found compensable and some not, so the issue of the application of Labor Code § 3600.2 could go up to the WCAB and the appellate courts.
A long, drawn out battle over this issue is not what these brave individuals need.
That’s why it was good to see that Assemblyman Tom Daly of Anaheim plans to sponsor a legislative fix to make it clear that such peace officers should be covered. A quick search of the California legislature website does not yet show any proposed bill, so it is unclear how the bill might address concerns over a retroactive fix or clarification of the law.
Here is the link to the November 30 Orange County Register article:
Here is an earlier OC Register article on the topic: