EL PASO COUNTY, Colo (KDVR) — As Colorado mourns the first public COVID-19-related death of a law enforcement officer, questions remain about whether those deaths will be considered line-of-duty.
The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office did not address the question at a press conference Thursday, announcing the death of 41-year-old Deputy Jeff Hopkins.
“What are we looking at it in terms of benefits to the family?” said Jennifer Witkowski. “Are we considering that a line-of-duty death?”
Witkowski is the president of Blue Lives Matter Colorado, and says the question needs to be answered.
She says typically to receive certain benefits, law enforcement members must prove an injury or illness was job-related.
That’s proving difficult with COVID-19, which can be carried for days without some people showing any symptoms.
“We have no idea where this could be picked up,” Witkowski said. “But the reality is, when you’re dealing with a police officer or a first responder, it’s probably going to be job-related.”
In a statement, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office said it has not determined whether the death will be considered line-of-duty.
“There are numerous factors that contribute to the answer of whether this will be a line of duty death or not. We are working diligently with Public Health and the Epidemiologist to be able to answer that question as quickly as possible,” the sheriff’s office said.
Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Shrader tells FOX31 reporter Evan Kruegel all COVID-related illness and deaths in his department, should they happen, will be considered line-of-duty.
“It would be really difficult, if at all possible in any regard, to determine to where someone had been afflicted,” said Shrader. “In our organization, we are treating all of these, as if they are on-duty, until we know differently.”
A number of law enforcement benefits, including the U.S. Department of Justice Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program, require line-of-duty designation.