Worcester officials trying to change state law regarding fallen officers’ pensions

City councilors looking to include drowning in law that gives pension to widows

WORCESTER, Mass. — Worcester city councilors approved an order Tuesday to draft a petition to change state law when it comes to an officer’s pension after dying in the line of duty.

“There’s no replacing a life, but there’s a certain reality that you need to financially be able to move forward,” said Morris Bergman, a Worcester city councilor.

Councilor Morris Bergman proposed the change after learning drowning was not included as a reason to give a fallen officer’s pension to a surviving spouse. Worcester Officer Manny Familia drowned less than two weeks ago while trying to save a boy, who also drowned, from a pond; and as of now, Bergman said, his wife will not receive his pension.

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“We want to make sure that that loophole, particularly in respect to Officer Familia, is resolved so his family doesn’t lose that source of income, which obviously, they’ve lost husband, they’ve lost a father, but they really need the city to step up,” Bergman said.

A few Worcester officers showed up at the council meeting to support the change.

“We had a wonderful hero who did what he felt he needed to do to save a life,” said Kate Toomey, a Worcester city councilor.

Worcester city leaders all agree if an officer drowns while trying to save a life on duty, his or her spouse should receive that pension, but now it’ll be up to state delegation to change this law.

“We can hand off the ball, they’re going to have to put it over the goal line,” Bergman said.

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Councilor Toomey also proposed to start placing flotation devices at every body of water in Worcester to make rescues easier in the future.

“It’s important, I think, to have a safety flotation safety device available, along with the signage, and, frankly, I think it’s an even greater message to say, look if we think there needs to be a safety device, you probably shouldn’t be going in here,” Toomey said.

State leaders are already looking at the pension change on Beacon Hill, and Worcester city leaders hope, if this passes on the state level, it should be retroactive to make sure to give Officer Familia’s widow his full pension.