In a lame response to a critical issue, Oak Park’s village spokesperson on Friday justified the unjustifiable decision to cut off paychecks to a veteran cop shot multiple times as being equal treatment of all village hall staff regardless of their position.

Equating the job done by a cop in the street with a clerk in public works, an urban planner, or even a village spokesperson is ludicrous as well as exceptionally bad optics at a moment when police officers around this country are being targeted for execution. 

Cops are different. Firefighters are different. Plain and simple.

Fifteen months ago, Johnny Patterson, an Oak Park police officer for 27 years, was leaving his home on Chicago’s South Side for work. He was confronted in his alley by two armed teens as he left his garage. He identified himself as a police officer but was quickly shot in the arm, side and leg. He returned fire and managed to shoot his assailant four times. Both the assailant and his under-age accomplice were arrested and are now jailed, awaiting trial.

The position of Oak Park’s village government is that Patterson was off-duty when he was shot. Therefore a year after the incident, when all of his vacation and sick pay had been used, Oak Park ended his compensation. Now the village is also being difficult in approving his return to work (and pay). While his doctor approved him for work in May, the village is requiring further medical testing before he is approved for active duty.

The Fraternal Order of Police, the cops’ union, is pushing back. James Hawkinson, president of FOP Lodge 8, says state law makes plain that any police officer is considered on duty once he has clearly identified himself as a cop. 

If as a village, as a country, we still expect that cops run toward danger rather than stepping down or aside, we damn well ought to be ready to pay them for that courage. That the incident did not take place in Oak Park, or while on duty here, is irrelevant to this case. 

The FOP is planning a fundraiser next week. A GoFundMe account has also been created to accept individual contributions from citizens. That’s gratifying though the need for it is pretty pathetic.

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