A former police officer who suffered a heart attack on the job and retired after he was denied a permanent desk position has taken his lawsuit against The City to the California Supreme Court.
A December 2005 heart attack put Kenneth Lui, a 24-year Police Department veteran, on disability leave for a year with full pay. After going on light duty for a year in the department’s records division, a doctor cleared Lui to return to full patrol duty, but warned him that struggling with a suspect “could cost him his life,” according to legal filings.
Police brass would not return Lui to full patrol duty because of his heart condition, and he tried but failed to secure an administrative position that allowed him to keep his badge and gun. Lui pursued a disability retirement rather than take another city job that was not a sworn police officer position in 2008 since it would affect his pension, according to court filings. He sued The City two months later, alleging disability discrimination.
In his lawsuit, Lui argued that he did not need to be able to work patrol or make arrests in order to work a desk job, noting that other partly disabled officers were working desk jobs. A trial court ruled against Lui, saying that the administrative jobs need to be filled by police who can perform the department’s “core functions” of working patrol and making arrests.
An appeals court in December agreed with the lower court’s ruling. Lui appealed to the Supreme Court on Jan. 22.
Removing sworn officers from desk jobs has been a mandate for police chiefs in San Francisco for a decade. Two hundred and ten officers — 10 percent of the total force — were working desk jobs in 2003. As of Feb. 1, there were 27 officers on temporary light duty and 34 working permanent light desk jobs, according to Police Sgt. Michael Andraychak. The decrease brings the total closer to 2 percent of the 2,100-officer force.
Under a rule hashed out by department brass and the Police Officers Association in 2004, officers must choose to retire, take a nonsworn position, or return to full duty after a year of light duty.
Lui’s attorney, Kenneth Dale Murrray, did not respond to a request for comment.