CLEAT wants to legally enforce Line of Duty Death benefits for COVID-19 related deaths

cleat charley wilkison 2

Charley Wilkison, executive director of the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, wears a face mask as he delivers remarks at an April 23, 2020 press conference calling on Gov. Greg Abbott to list COVID-19 as a presumptive illness for first-responders. (Courtesy: CLEAT)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The largest police labor organization in Texas announced Thursday that it will work pro bono to legally enforce Line of Duty Death benefits for all Texas first responders during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement released Thursday, the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas (CLEAT) said it will sue any political subdivision, law enforcement agency or individual who rules that COVID-19 related deaths are non-duty related.

“Our state and federal government have failed through a lack of preparedness to supply life-saving PPE supplies for law enforcement unnecessarily placing their lives at risk,” said Charley Wilkison, executive director of CLEAT.

“The employee death toll at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice is already at five employees dead because of COVID-19. Scores of other law enforcement officers have been exposed, are sequestered, have tested positive and are currently hospitalized.”

The organization says it will represent the families of survivors free of charge regardless of union affiliation or membership in the filing of lawsuits as well as federal and state Line of Duty Death claims.

According to a press release from CLEAT, any ruling other than a LODD on a COVID-19 related death for an person employed by the state or political subdivisions will be considered a blatant attempt at avoiding paying proper benefits to the worker’s family.

Earlier in April, CLEAT called on Gov. Abbott to list COVID-19 as a presumptive illness for first responders.

“If the coronavirus is listed as a presumptive illness, that means it’s presumed officers got it while on duty,” said Wilkison.

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