Quarter-Ton New York Cop Denied Fatter Disability Pay

By Staff Report

Jan. 18, 2008

A district judge in New York City denied a 500-pound police officer an increase in his disability pay, upholding a ruling by the city’s pension board that the officer’s morbid obesity, not an injury, was to blame for his inability to perform his job, according to court records.

Or, as the New York Daily News put it: “If there’s one thing that’s not getting any fatter on a 500-pound ex-cop, it’s his paycheck.”

State Supreme Court Justice Judith Gische upheld the pension board’s decision that Paul Soto was only entitled to regular disability pay—equal to half his salary—rather than disability pay suffered in the line of duty since Soto’s obesity, not the fact that he tripped on the way to see his doctor, was the reason he was unable to work.

Soto, who is 5-7 and 40 years old, joined the police force in 1993, when he weighed 250-pounds. By 2004, Soto weighed in excess of 300 pounds and suffered from hypertension, morbid obesity and sleep apnea.

Unable to perform his duties as a police officer, he requested disability retirement pay, according to court papers. While the request was pending, the police department put him on desk duty.

A year later, Soto tripped in the hallway of his knee surgeon, hurting his knee. As a result of the fall, Soto asked to receive accident disability pay equal to three-quarters of an officer’s salary.

In denying Soto’s request for accident retirement pay, Judge Gische wrote in her 10-page decision, which was reached in December but not filed with the Manhattan county clerk until January 8, that the retired police officer’s knee injury did not make him any less able to perform his desk duties.

“Leaving aside whether petitioner’s accident was due to his own negligence, and even assuming that this was, in fact, an ‘accident’ … [h]e was not any less able to perform his duties as an officer after the fall than he was before it.”

—Jeremy Smerd

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