The Chicago Sun-Times says 347 Chicago cops are on disability leave, costing $18 million a year from the cash-strapped police pension fund. Few ever come back to work for the police department once they go on disability, and they have little incentive to do so. Some suffered devastating injuries. But others whose injuries were less severe have gone on to new careers while on disability. They include cops turned lawyers, small-business owners, a car salesman and a construction worker.
Police officers are the only employees in city government who, while on disability leave, are allowed to work outside jobs, according to Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration. For them, disability pays. It allows them to keep collecting substantial paychecks for bad shoulders, hands, backs and other line-of-duty injuries. It allows them to keep city health benefits for themselves and their families — at no cost to them. It allows their disability checks to rise as the pay for their old jobs with the police department goes up through raises. And it guarantees them a city pension when they turn 63 — often based largely on their years on the disability rolls.