By DARRELL JACKSON, Staff Writer the Peoria Times
Two Peoria police officers who were injured while on duty are claiming substandard or non-existent care for their injuries while being forced back on the job by the city-contracted insurance company.
Officers Adam Miller and Tomoki Scheideman claim that Peoria’s contracted insurer, Pinnacle Risk Management, and Peoria Police Chief Roy Minter have denied both the ability to continue on light duty while they rehabilitate from their injuries.
The two held a press conference to discuss the issues and were supported by officers from Glendale, Chandler, Tucson and Phoenix, among other cities.
“This is not just a Peoria police issue,” said President of the Peoria Police Officers Association, Mike Faith. “This is an issue that affects all officers and is something that needs to be addressed to keep all our brothers safe.”
Miller has worked for Peoria for more than eight years while Scheideman has been part of the department for nine years.
Nov. 22, 2013, Officer Miller was involved in an on-duty car accident where a driver failed to yield while driving on a suspended license. He was transported from the scene by ambulance to the emergency room, where he was treated for burns on his forearms and a spinal injury.
“I have documented information from a third party medical professional clearly stating that I would be a liability and that I am not fully healed and ready for full duty,” Miller said. “At this point in time, I am just trying to get a resolution, and I have appealed the decision, but have exhausted my personal time and sick leave.”
Miller has been an officer with Peoria for eight years and feels that Chief Minter was the one who denied him to continue on light duty.
“My doctors say that, while they can’t honestly say how long back injuries will take, but they say I should be on light duty for a couple more months,” Miller said. “I just don’t want to be in the field and not able to protect the citizens to the fullest. Also, when you’re injured, I may be more inclined to use force when I shouldn’t.”
Officer Scheideman has a similar story. April 28, 2014, he felt ill and proceeded to the Peoria Fire Station at 8064 W. Peoria Ave. to use the restroom. Diagnosed with celiac disease, a condition that creates inflammation in the small intestines, he went to the fire station because it was a secured facility.
He was in uniform and driving a police cruiser when he drove up and remembers walking into the station. The next thing he remembers is waking up in a hospital bed. He apparently fainted while in the restroom of the fire house and fell, fracturing his C7 vertebrae and suffering a concussion.
“Pinnacle is stating that I had a pre-existing condition and that is why they denied my workman’s compensation claim,” Scheideman said. “My doctor’s have said there is not a direct aspect of my disease and is not connected. There is no proof that my fainting spell was because of my condition.”
Mark Newman, Sgt. At arms for PPOA said that officers deal with death and injuries every day and feels that these officers want to work, just light duty so that they can fully recover from their injuries.
“We deal with life-threatening issues every day we go to work.” Newman said. “The members of the PPOA will continue to support all our officers and we hope the PPOA can continue to work with the City of Peoria and Pinnacle to come to a fair decision.”
Numerous officers attended the press conference in support of Miller and Scheideman in a show of solidarity.
“These officers need time to rehabilitate,” Faith said. “They were both injured on the job, and it wasn’t their fault. So we have officers now that are scared to go out and jump a fence because they will think, ‘Am I going to be covered if I get hurt?’”
The city released the following statement regarding the officers’ claims:
“Today a press conference was held where two Peoria police officers accused the City of Peoria and Pinnacle Risk Management, the city’s third party administrator for medical claims, of treating them unfairly. It is important to note that the city strives to have all workers’ compensation claims processed fairly and pursuant to state regulations, as well as being fiscally balanced for the public interest and employee benefit. This balance occasionally results in claims being denied or with employees disagreeing with being released to full duty. Employees, under state law, have the ability to appeal such decisions to the Industrial Commission of Arizona (ICA).
“The city and Pinnacle have followed reasonable and appropriate processes in these particular cases and to state otherwise is patently untrue. Both cases are pending with the ICA and the parties are represented by counsel. Pursuant to City practice, we will not discuss pending matters and have no further comment on them.
“Public safety is and always has been our No. 1 priority in the City of Peoria,” said Peoria Police Chief Roy Minter. “Any assertion that officers are being forced to return to duty when they are not 100 percent is not true.”