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We like cops here at TTAG. Honest we do. But when so many of them provide such a target rich environment – so to speak – you just gotta take note. Are your state’s taxes going up? Local officials cutting cops, firefighters and teachers? Odds are, the reason is pension and disability liabilities your city and state took on without any earthly idea how to meet them in the long run. New Jersey, one of the nation’s most financially overburdened states, has recently taken steps to compound the fiscal harakiri by lowering the bar for public employees claiming accidental disability benefits. Which brings us to the sorry case of Christopher Onseti…

Onseti’s a New Jersey Transit cop. Five years ago last month, he was at a local range, apparently working on his handgun qualification. And as tells it, that’s when everything went horribly wrong.

As (Onseti) was preparing to shoot, a burst of wind tore a Q-shaped target from its wooden post. Onesti picked up a staple gun and tried to reattach the target — and what happened next could end up costing state taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Onesti, 27 at the time, accidentally fired a staple into the base of his left ring finger, records show. He put a Band Aid on the wound and successfully completed the tests. But after two operations Onesti says he still can’t do his job, and is now one of a record number of public employees across the state seeking an accidental disability pension for life.

A Q-shaped target? Really?

Anyway, that two-pronged booboo (not pictured above) that Onesti took care of with a Band-Aid and didn’t stop him from finishing his round of qualifying, has cost God-knows-how-much in legal fees and administrative time in the intervening years.

It’s hard to fathom how a stapled finger could permanently keep someone from performing his police officer duties, even if it’s on his dominant hand (and I’m betting this one isn’t).  If his finger had been amputated, he’d still be able to walk a beat. Or cruise in his patrol car. Or whatever his particular duties entail.

But why go to all the trouble of wearing a uniform and strapping on a heater every day when you can kick your feet up and live via the rapidly depleting largesse of the New Jersey taxpayer? Just pull an ambulance chaser’s phone number from a late-night cable commercial and you’re in business.

As if the malingering weren’t bad enough, the potential jackpot’s substantial. If awarded the benefits, Onsetti would get two-thirds of his salary – free of state and federal taxes – plus fully paid life insurance until he reaches age 55. That’s twenty-four more years in his case.

In 2010, the Police and Fireman Pension Board denied Onesti’s application, contending the injury resulted from negligence, not from an unexpected risk taken on the job. But an administrative law judge, citing the Supreme Court decisions, recommended that the board reverse its decision.

“How a judge gave an accidental disability pension to a guy who stapled his finger is amazing,” said John Sierchio, chairman of the pension board who has been critical of the ruling. “We should poll kids from kindergartens across the state to see how many have done the same thing.”

Another board member, Vincent Foti, said, “How about the doctor that said he can’t work?”

Their comments came seconds before the board unanimously — and in an unusual move — rejected the judge’s ruling, which Onesti can appeal in state court. He could not be reached for comment.

Nice to see that, amid their growing unfunded liabilities, at least some public officials are taking Nancy Reagan’s advice and learning to just say no. Whether the people of New Jersey can count on the same degree of wisdom from an appellate judge remains to be seen.

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  1. Government job = lottery jackpot….too bad for the rest of you…SUCKERS.

    We recently had a fireman here in Boston who was on permanent disability when he took up bodybuilding. He was acquitted of fraud charges despite the fact that he seems perfectly able bodied.

    There are a million other similar stories in the naked (and nearly bankrupt) cities. Work hard, do the right thing, play by the rules, take care of your own business, pay your own way in the world and still get screwed at every turn. It seems that being honest and ethical just doesn’t pay anymore.

    • As a petty bureaucrat, I resent that.

      Of course, I work in Texas, not one of our leftest-leaning states – but at least here there are a lot of hard-working government employees who are working hard, playing by the rules, and occasionally getting the shaft from state legislators who change the rules mid-game.
      As the old song goes (that you may not have heard in Boston) : “Believe me, son. There ain’t no easy run.”

      • There was no dig intended on all the good folks that conduct their lives in a moral, ethical, honorable and conscientious manner. There are, however, countless examples of people in both the private and public sectors who have no qualms about taking their fellow citizens to the cleaners. I don’t suspect that you are one of them.

    • I was in LE for 25 years,including 21 on the street and the rest in direct contact with prisoners daily.
      I had my hand broken in three place;,got thrown down a flight of concrete stairs,permanently injuring my back;got kicked in the eye with a workboot,necessitating surgery years later;got hit with a mop handle from behind;got bitten on the hand,resulting in an infection;fell through an attic ceiling onto the kitchen floor;and got generally punched and kicked more times than I care to mention.
      I never took a cent in disability retirement-i went out on time and age,so please don’t assume everyone is like this faker.
      I also had a severe infection from a training mishap.
      I’ll tell you what I do take a disability on though:Agent Orange related diseases picked up from exposure in Nam in 1968-69.I’m at 60% and it’s going to be raised because I can’t walk on my own without a cane now.I am not the least ashamed of accepting that or the free medical(which is really excellent care)-I figure I paid the premium up front,so to speak.

  2. I’ve always wondered why pensions provide guaranteed returns on speculation. Almost always with return exceptions which would make many hedge fund managers cream their pants. In Illinois for 2010, our large public pensions had their performance targets lowered to 7.75% from 8.5%. Compare this to 2010 hedge fund performance from some of the top managers:
    Although there are handful of funds have greater performance than the illinois expectations, they are incredibly risky speculative investments.And what do we get in return for this? Last time I went to the police station, to report a uninsured driver who hit my car for an insurance claim. The 300lbs cop at the front desk refused to write down the license plate number of the offenders car!

    For all you people who think the 2012 elections matter, why not join the 47% of America who cast a vote of no confidence in the 2008 elections. Would it really be that bad if no one recognized the authority of government? Sure crime would rise, but how much have you had stolen from you in your lifetime? $1,000? $10,000? Even if petty crime rose by 1,000% i’m willing to bet you lost more to income taxes alone than would ever be taken from you by criminals in a state of anarchy. On the up side you would also be able to defend yourself, with out having to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a legal defense.

      • Yes i am. Although technically you dont have to vote to get to such a place, just enough people have to not vote. And it would not be a state, since a state by definition has a government.

        • The problem is with the people who wouldn’t be able to handle an anarchist state of being. Without a central government, all that would happen would be that ambitious people would start their own micro-states and take in the bewildered civilians who need to cling to authority. Such states would spring up and eventually rule their own territories and make war on their neighboring states, and tax their people to fund such wars. So instead of one corrupt government, you have a thousand. Not everyone is a free-wheeling anarchist without need of government and authority, and there are plenty of opportunists willing to take advantage of the masses. How do you think human governments came to be in the first place?

          Oh, and with a fragmented nation, don’t think other nations will just sit idly by and not drop in to take part.

          Not that an anarchist movement has any real chance of actually happening, nor am I in favor of one.

        • That is true. The up side to that is the power exercised by those gangs/micro governments would be very limited compared to the current system.

        • That is true, but the up side is that the power exercised by the micro governments/gangs/corporations would be very limited compared to the current system.

          True, not a lot of chance either. Some peoples faith is in a fictional meta-physicial being, mine is anarchy.

    • “In Illinois for 2010, our large public pensions had their performance targets lowered to 7.75% from 8.5%.”

      Well good for you in Illinois.
      How long will that money last when word gets out every malingerer gets a life time check?

      Besides the fact it just pisses off the rest of us off, working to pay the bill.

      • Huh? Performance targets are the targeted rates of return for a fund, which are rarely met. I’m not really sure what you intended to say.

        • “Huh? Performance targets are the targeted rates of return for a fund, which are rarely met. I’m not really sure what you intended to say.”

          OK, so your comment has zero to do with the issue presented. I can deal with that.

  3. ::head-desk::

    Curious, does anyone around here know first hand any cops (or anyone) who are entirely missing a finger or two who are still 100% effective at their job?


    p.s. ::head-desk::

    • My agency had two officers with missing digits. Both were (ordinarily) trigger fingers on their dominant side. Each used their bird finger to pull the trigger. They shot just fine and were otherwise able to perform their duties.

    • We had a guy blow off a pinky and injure his hand while loading a flash bang. After some rehabilitation, he is working fine. Luckily he wasn’t blinded because he turned his head away from the bang.

    • This is kind of what I was getting at. I know a handful of people missing a digit and they are still 100% effective at their job…


    • YES!

      Many moons ago I went to the academy with an individual who only had one arm (NOT a joke!).

      Prior to being hired by the sheriff’s department as a correctional officer, he was an electrician working for a large electrical contractor. In an industrial accident on a transformer, he was electrocuted, with current passing down his right arm. The current destroyed much of his arm, which was later amputated. He now has a prosthetic right arm with limited grip function.

      He attended the corrections academy, and did his firearms qualifications one handed, using only his left hand and arm (he was right handed prior to the accident). He qualified with the 870 12ga racking it one-handed by gripping the “pump” and jerking it quickly. He mastered hand cuffing techniques.

      He applied for promotion to deputy, and had to go to the sheriff’s academy (police academy) for 10 months to get his peace officer license, and was in my class. Despite only having one arm, he easily qualified with the handgun, shotgun (870), and rifle (AR-15). Using one hand and his prosthetic he could reload about as quickly as the other cadets with two good hands.

      He has now been in the department for well over 20 years, works patrol, and has always accounted for himself very well.

      If he can be an effective deputy, performing all of the tasks of a peace officer with only one arm, it would seem to me that a staple injury to a finger could easily be remedied without lifetime disability.

  4. I would say the staple to the finger is prolly a cross-eye dominance issue. The RO should of had him close one eye and stick out his tongue a little. That or they could jb weld a laser/light combo to that sob and maybe add a safety.

  5. When he says he stapled his finger while qualifying is the staple STILL IN HIS FINGER? If not, how is he disabled? This hits a personal chord with me since I have a lasting injury on that same finger…

    He’s had five years to heal! What, is he having trouble playing the guitar? You said left ring finger, I actually fractured that finger twice (rather incidentally both times) and I have trouble with the guitar, yes I do. I can’t play pool anymore but I was never any good with a cue anyway. I’m NOT on disability and hadn’t even imagined trying to get on it because the tip of my finger doesn’t move 100%. I jammed that same finger twice while fighting so the tip doesn’t like to move with full motion. Nothing in my life seems affected, I can still type and whatever else without pain. While it was healing it was inconvenient but over time it went away and I do things like people with full functioning hands do. Oh wait, it’s because my hand is fully functional!

    I just ain’t seein’ what the big deal is that he can kick back and say something about how he used to be a cop and he’s washed up cuz he caught a staple not a bullet.

  6. That cop gives all cops & all disabilities/regular LE pensions a bad name; it’s also one of the reasons that NJ has laid off record numbers of cops, especially in high-crime areas like Camden and Paterson, as cases like this are used to justify politcians claiming cops are too expensive when actually civilians at risk due to fewer cops are more expensive. I’ve worked with more than a few cops in my dept that should be in jail but are or will eventually collect a pension. Mgmt generally turns a blind eye to the bad cops since they’re running their own scams as well. Gone are the days when LE meant SERVICE with HONOR and INTEGRITY. How these scumbags with badges can sleep knowing that others in the same field or dept have made the ultimate sacrifice is beyond me. Guess it’s just another symptom of the pandemic of corruption bringing our govt & country down.

    • Just wondering, but if you’ve worked with bad cops, why not arrest them or work with the states attorney office or media to expose them? What about the officially sanctioned corruption known as “professional courtesy”, have you ever received or provided one? You go on and on about honor and integrity, and mention that your fellow officers and management deserve to be in jail, but fail to mention a single action you performed to preserve the integrity of your department. With your knowledge of their actions, your silence makes you at the very least complicit if not an accomplice in their crimes. And for what end? Just so that you dont have to fear retaliatory firing, and can continue to have a slightly higher standard of living than you would receive in another industry? Its troubling to know that you would sell out your fellow countrymen for such a small price.

      Civilians at risk is more expensive than bloated police salaries/benefits/equipment budgets? Can you please provide a reference or justification for this claim.

      • You assume too much, but granted you didn’t have all the info. If I did nothing, I would be complicit, but in fact I did take action, via internal & outside sources, but in most cases the investigators covered for them &/or failed to act &/or just gave a wrist slap to the offenders; I paid the price more than once with a variety of retaliatory acts (shift changes, denial of time off, bogus IA’s, etc.). Until you’ve worked w/in a corrupt agency, don’t assume the corruption stops at the 1st level, because it doesn’t. (And no, I don’t give or take “prof courtesy”, & have in fact been blasted by other officers (including bosses) for not doing so, being accused of not “honoring the brotherhood”).

        Civilians at risk are more expensive because there’s the many, many associated costs – rise in crime, injury & death to innocent bystanders/victims & property damages from lack of protection or prevention, health care costs from same, increases in MV related incidents (DWI, speed, etc.), overtime to cover vacant shifts, negative health & marital effects to real working officers who are dealing with more stress, not to mention the probable rise in BS disability applications by officers trying to get out like the guy in the article.

        Further, don’t assume that all officers get a bloated salary or great equipment. Even in NJ, some towns get very little; the money tends to be where the population is rich (i.e., many parts of Bergen) or has political support. If you don’t think that working police (& fire etc.), i.e. the ones who do serve w/honor & risk their lives every day they strap on a gun, are worth paying a decent salary, then who do you think should get good pay? Most people support veterans/military for protecting their country, even though there are some bad apples in the military. Why then is it so hard to support police who protect & serve & also risk their lives for country & community? The politicians who complain about police pensions are also collecting lifelong pensions for 4 years or less in office, but you don’t hear them offer to give their pie up, do you? Stop drinking the kool-aid!

        • If the investigators covered up an incident, then why didnt you go to the feds or media? I never assumed corruption was limited to the lowest layer of an organization, for systemic corruption such as profession courtesy, it would have to be approved of at the top. The very fact that you are still employed with this agency demonstrates that management believes they can control you, effectively prevent you doing anything meaningful, and that you are more than willing to lend your credibility to their corrupt department. Assuming you exausted all options include the feds and media, why did you not resign out of disgust, rather than to continue to lend them your credibility?

          A rise in crime? Place a dollar value on the amount you have had stolen from you over your lifetime, then compare that to what you’ve paid for in tax. Assuming crime rose 1000% I’m willing to bet that you would have lost less to crime than you would have from taxes.

          The police do get a bloated salary and great equipment compared with security professionals in the private sector. Most security guards I see are close to minimum wage and have at most pepper spray and a set of hand cuffs. Even armored truck drivers are minimally equipped, salaries start in the mid 30s around me compared to police who start at almost 60k + a pension.

          The majority of people in the military are bad apples, they are more than willing to kill someone who never posed a threat to them simply because a authority figure orders them to do so. When was the last time America faced the threat of foreign troops on its soil? Were the Iraqi or Afgahni militaries threatening us? Most people dont support the military or veterans. Do you see any national media coverage of pro-military protests? Do you see coverage of the poor treatment veterans receive at VA hospitals? Ever wonder why? Because few people outside of military families support the troops.

          Police risk their lives every day? Really, you get shot at once per day? Someone pulls a knife on you once per day? What a load of BS. You at worst have to spend 8 hours in a shitty neighborhood, while ignoring the fact that the citizens of that neighborhood have to be there 24 hours a day. Where is their pension or accolades?

          I never supported the politicians, go up and read the last paragraph of my first post in this article.

        • Wow. The military are killers, the public doesn’t support vets, cops are overpaid (despite the fact that many start in the 30’s & 40’s, not 60’s) and not risking their lives, and you know everything about my experiences and character (except the fact that I’m no quitter, have worked (& will continue to work) to change things, whether successful or not, in the dept & community where I live AND work, and have no intention of being forced to leave as that is true defeat). What a privileged person you must be to have all the (wrong) answers. (Actually, sounds like you’re a disgruntled security guard.)

          Why no complaint about “pro” sports greed in salaries (not to mention Hollywood, music, & the talking-head-pundit brainwashers of discontent), or CEO’s getting lifetime packages while laying off their workers, or political campaigns with more cash than some small countries (or local gov’t police budgets), or taxpayer subsidies to energy industries raking in record profits while ever increasing public fees, etc. etc.?

          The only thing clear from your responses is that you detest the police (& maybe envy them) but know little about the real differences between police work & “security professionals”, as you call them. You’re entitled to your opinion, of course, but that’s all it is. And since I worked unarmed security before becoming a cop, let me assure you that there’s a vast difference between the 2. Yes, security pay was lower, but if someone was armed, I called the POLICE to go after them. You see, police MUST chase the armed guy; the unarmed security guard is not required to. I was also never assaulted as a security guard; not so lucky as a cop. Cops also have to handle domestic violence arrests (one of the 2 most dangerous parts of police work – when did a security guard ever make a DV arrest?), drug arrests, weapons arrests, etc, etc, but you think security guards should get paid the same?? But you’re right, we shouldn’t compensate people based on their responsibility to protect people (vs. assets), or risk to life, or service to the community. We should continue to give obscene amounts of money to ballplayers & politicians & actors & CEO’s while eviscerating teachers, medical staff, cops, firemen, EMT’s, the military, & so many of those who work in “dirty jobs” to keep the rest of us safe or warm etc. Wondering what you do to contribute to society…and if involves any personal risk?

  7. It almost sounds like the accident is due to his negligence. In private industry, the guy would probably be written up after his recuperation. It will be interesting to see how the case turns out. More government fun and frolic.

    • “It almost sounds like the accident is due to his negligence. In private industry, the guy would probably be written up after his recuperation. ”

      Better yet fired.

  8. Too bad this nitwit didnt fire that staple thru his head. Then the state might only be on the hook for funeral services. A bargain in comparison.


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