Injured Cop Walks

June 9th, 2006 by

Last July we blogged the story of Michael Forman, a suffolk County policeman who had been indicted for workers comp fraud. He was charged with illegally collecting $250,000 in worker’s compensation while climbing the ranks of the Bethpage Volunteer Fire Department. Disabled by “excruciating pain” in his wrist, he nonetheless was able to respond to hundreds of fire calls. In a stark demonstration that the wheels of justice can turn in unexpected ways, Forman was recently acquitted of all charges by a jury that deliberated for just three hours. When we examine the details, as provided by Julia Mead in the New York Times, perhaps the acquittal is not so surprising.
Forman had told police doctors that he was in so much pain that he could not drive or pick up objects. A surveillance video taken by police and played for the jury showed Forman trimming a tree in his back yard and using the injured hand to open doors, drive his fire department vehicle and talk on a cell phone.
However, Mead’s article points out that the videos were taken before Mr. Forman’s injury worsened and before he had surgery in April 2004. According to his attorney, the surgery to repair his wrist with a metal plate held in place by seven screws has caused his client to suffer from complex regional pain syndrome, a chronic condition requiring pain medication. Experts in the syndrome testified that Mr. Forman’s condition is “permanent and life-altering.”
One anonymous juror said that ultimately “the evidence did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt” Forman’s guilt.
Perhaps the jury was swayed by the fact that Forman was performing community service in a volunteer capacity, so on some level he wasn’t really “working.” (It’s not clear whether he was paid for his fire department work.) As we pointed out in our original blog, as a public safety officer, Forman collected 100 per cent of his average weekly wage, tax free. He makes more per hour on workers comp than he does working as a cop.
Management Drops the Ball
It’s interesting to note that at one point in this saga Forman’s doctors recommended he return to light duty with the police. Because light duty was apparently never offered, management dropped the ball in their one clear opportunity to bring this situation to a reasonable conclusion. Now Forman is applying for retirement disability, which, once granted, should free him up to do whatever he wants in his spare time. In retrospect, there was a brief window of opportunity to keep Forman active in the police department, but for unknown reasons, the opportunity was missed. Too bad for the police department and too bad for Officer Forman.