Mayor Needs to Take Care of New Bedford Police Sergeant’s Family [OPINION]
New Bedford Police Sgt. Michael Cassidy passed away in April after a courageous battle with COVID-19. Sgt. Cassidy became a cop in 1994. During his 27-year career with the New Bedford Police Department, Cassidy served as a patrolman, worked in narcotics, firearms, and criminal investigations. He earned two New Bedford Life Saving Awards, including one in 2018 for saving a woman's life at Market Basket.
Cassidy was also a U.S. Marine serving in Operation Desert Storm and was awarded numerous commendations and citations for his service.
Sgt. Cassidy was only 52 years old when he died. As a result of his illness, Cassidy accumulated staggering medical bills. His widow Debbie has struggled to pay tuition for their child while keeping the bill collectors away from the door. Friends and family have helped with fundraising. But because Sgt. Cassidy's illness was not considered work-related, Debbie Cassidy is entitled to only 70 percent of her late husband's pension.
Several bills are pending in the Massachusetts Legislature and in Congress that would address this issue. State Rep. Chris Hendricks of New Bedford testified in favor of legislation that would consider the death of a police officer from COVID-19 a line of duty death, entitling families to requisite benefits. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey testified in favor of similar legislation on Capitol Hill.
The New Bedford City Council unanimously endorsed a measure to accomplish the same goal as the proposed state and federal legislation. That measure requires a home-rule petition, meaning Mayor Jon Mitchell, the Massachusetts Legislature, and Governor Charlie Baker must approve it before it can happen. So far, the request for a home-rule petition remains on Mitchell's desk.
Mitchell should quickly approve the home-rule petition with instructions for the legislative delegation to fight for its passage on Beacon Hill. It is evident that Sgt. Cassidy was deserving of the effort and that his family is entitled to his full pension.
Mitchell should stop dragging his feet and deliver for Sgt. Cassidy, just like Cassidy delivered for New Bedford and his country. Make it happen, Mayor Mitchell.
Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.