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You are here: Home Opinion Paula I. Bryant Righting a wrong

Righting a wrong

Too often we take our law enforcement officials for granted.

It’s not just the everyday citizen who does this, but the system also is guilty of doing the same.

Earlier this month on March 7 Virginia State Police Master Trooper Junius Alvin Walker of Dinwiddie County was killed in the line of duty.

The 63-year-old veteran law enforcement officer was murdered as he slowed down to offer assistance to what appeared to be a disabled car. 

The master trooper didn’t know his life was in danger as he simply tried to help someone he thought might need assistance.

He wasn’t in hot pursuit of the bad guy, and he wasn’t trying to chase down a speeding motorist. It was a human act of kindness by someone doing the right thing, trying to help a fellow man that resulted in his untimely death, just weeks before his scheduled retirement.

Law enforcement officers put their lives on the line as part of their jobs every day. Any officer can face this type of risk, and it’s not something we as citizens should continue taking for granted.

Another issue facing authorities in the line of duty that few even knew was a problem came to the attention of area legislators before the last General Assembly session, and we commend them for doing something about it.

Sen. Frank Ruff and Del. Tommy Wright and Sen. Bryce Reeves addressed what he described as “a bad situation that could affect you and your neighbors when in harm’s way.”

 Sen. Ruff said he heard of the “horrible situation” that neighboring Mecklenburg Sheriff’s Deputy B. J. Mull was placed in while doing his duty.
  Deputy Mull had been sent to respond to a call one stormy and windy night. After he had finished handling the call, he was driving away from the home when his cruiser was hit by a falling branch. 

The tree branch crushed the vehicle’s roof onto him, seriously injuring the officer.

The sheriff’s office reported the injury properly as a Workman’s Compensation claim, only to be informed these injuries were not covered because they were an “act of God,” and acts of God are not covered under Workman’s Compensation.

Whoever heard of such nonsense? 

This determination could have destroyed Deputy Mull and his family financially while he was out of work with no income. He appealed the decision but to no avail.

Thankfully, fellow deputies stepped up and volunteered to give up some of their sick days to help provide for the Mull family.

Since that unfortunate incident, word spread across the state about the situation. Other sheriffs, chiefs of police and the state police were all concerned.  

That’s when the legislators got involved.

“If supervisors had to send officers out during dangerous weather conditions, would they hesitate understanding that the risk to them could devastate the family?” Sen. Ruff rightfully asks.

The local legislators set out to resolve the problem by clarifying that if a law enforcement officer is injured during the course of fulfilling his assigned responsibilities because of weather related problems, they WILL qualify for Workman’s Compensation benefits.

It’s only fair, and something I bet most of us assumed already was the norm.

Although this legislation will not affect Deputy Mull and his family because it will not go into effect until July 1, it will be in place the next time a tragedy like this occurs.

This legislation will alleviate a lot of worries and fears for the next affected officer and his or her family.

We agree with Sen. Ruff that since our dedicated law enforcement officers stand ready to assist each of us in our times of need, we most assuredly owe the same to them and their families when misfortune hits them as they work to protect us.

Thank you Senators Ruff, Reeves and Delegate Wright for righting this wrong.

And thanks to our many dedicated law enforcement officers who never hesitate to put their lives on the line to protect citizens and their property.