NEWTOWN (AP) — Town officials have decided not to fire a police officer who hasn’t returned to work since the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School because of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Thomas Bean, 38, will be allowed to remain on long-term disability, but a dispute has erupted between town officials and the police union over how long Bean can receive disability benefits, which include paying him half his salary.
The town’s police commission dropped discussion at its meeting on Tuesday over whether Bean should be fired, because Police Chief Michael Kehoe rescinded a recommendation he made to the commission in August to terminate Bean, the News-Times of Danbury reported.
Kehoe didn’t explain his reversal. His executive administrative assistant said Wednesday that he isn’t commenting on the matter because it is a personnel issue.
Bean was among the first responders to the school shooting on Dec. 14, 2012, when 20 first-graders and six educators were shot to death by a gunman who killed himself as police arrived.
Bean has said he has been diagnosed as 100 percent disabled because of post-traumatic stress disorder. A message was left at a phone listing for him.
Bean told the News-Times and NBC’s “Today” in previous interviews that he and other first responders saw one of the most horrific sights imaginable. He said he wakes up in the middle of the night crying and has panic attacks and flashbacks.
Bean said he believed the town would be breaking a promise to take care of its police officers when something bad happens if it fired him.
Newtown officials say Bean is due half his salary for two years under the town’s long-term disability policy. But the local police union disagrees, saying the police contract calls for half pay for 13 years, when Bean reaches retirement eligibility.
Union officials expect to file a grievance against the town if it continues to insist on the two-year limit.