Police officers who were traumatized by the horrific scene at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., last month and are now running out of paid sick and vacation time may soon get some financial help from an unlikely source: a yoga studio.
Linda Antignani, founder of Mother's Embrace Yoga in nearby Shelton, Conn., contacted the Newtown Police Department to ask what she could do to help after hearing about officers who have been unable to work in the wake of the Dec. 14 massacre, when a gunman opened fire, killing 20 children and six adults. The result: She has just launched an Adopt a Cop fund benefiting the traumatized officers.
According to the union representing the police, those suffering from post-traumatic stress are not entitled to workers' compensation benefits under the current town statute and have been forced to use sick and vacation time.
"The insurer for the town has taken a position that these officers are entitled to only what the statute allows," Eric Brown, an attorney for Council 15 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said last week. "Unfortunately for these officers, the statute doesn't allow any benefits." According to Brown, about 15 police officers have been unable to work due to trauma.
[Related: Scenes from Newtown, Connecticut]
Brown is hoping state lawmakers will push to change the statute for those who responded to the Newtown shootings when the 2013 legislative session begins on Jan. 9.
Until then, a liaison for the Newtown Police Department told Antignani that money raised through her yoga studio's Adopt a Cop fund could be converted into Walmart gift cards, so that the officers and their families can purchase food and other items while they remain out of work.
"Walmart was suggested by the liaison as the place where most Newtown officers would shop," Antignani explained. She's raised more than $180 so far.
"I don't know how much is needed," Antignani added. "Anything I can get together with the generous help of my students, friends and family is a good start."
Local police departments have been pitching in, too. On Christmas Day, officers from neighboring towns, including Shelton, offered to work in Newtown so officers there could spend the holiday with their families.