Police officers and firefighters who file injury claims in the Lower Hudson Valley often collect tax-free salaries for years while local municipalities and the state wrangle over who ultimately picks up the tab. More than 15 percent of the state's first responders end up retiring on a state-funded disability pension. That number is even higher in Westchester, Putnam and Rockland counties, where one in four is awarded the pension after being found too badly hurt to ever work again.
The Journal News examined thousands of records from more than 70 area police and fire departments, finding that taxpayers in the three counties spent more than $163 million over the past decade to pay injured public safety employees unable to work. That's enough to cover the salaries of all police officers and firefighters in 13 local departments for 10 years.