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Still No Resolution For North Chicago Police Pensioners Told To Work As Dispatchers Or Lose Their Benefits

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Some North Chicago police officers on disability and receiving pensions who are being threatened to either go back to work or lose their pensions have been waiting since 2019 to resolve the issue. The city's police chief asked them to come back as dispatchers because dispatch was "dramatically understaffed." But these pensioners said they could not physically do the job, and they shouldn't have to.

Trent Robinson gave the city of North Chicago 18 years as a police officer before he sustained a bad neck injury during a traffic stop.

"And it never got better," he said. 

It was after the neck injury that Robinson lost his eye in an unrelated accident.

Retired and living off his disability pension since 2004, Robinson was one of eight disabled officers suddenly recalled by North Chicago in 2019. The message was report to work as a 911 dispatcher or his pension would be revoked.

Robinson said if he could, he would.

"I've been through enough," he said.

Fellow pensioner Emir King was equally stunned. King went on disability in 2016 after 11 years on the job in North Chicago. He had a career ending shoulder injury on the job.

And then this spring, an emergency brain surgery to remove a cyst sidelined him again.

"You know, another week I probably wouldn't be sitting here talking to you," he said.

Then he got COVID-19 and pneumonia. King said he is not fit to work police dispatch.

He said his pension is necessary for his everyday survival.

"That's what I live off of," he said. 

"As far as I know in the history of our state, no municipality has ever utilized this obscure pension code provision to try to strip away the pension of a disabled officer before," said attorney Brent Eames, who represents both officers. 

CBS 2 never heard back from the city or North Chicago Police about this case, but in a letter, the city told Eames that "the city either didn't consider their excuses valid or didn't care," Eames said. The letter said the staffing shortage constituted an emergency.

Robinson and King have been waiting nearly a year for a decision and there is no end in sight.

The city won't accept the medical reasons that King and Robinson provided, but the pension board  meeting originally scheduled for March 2020 has been postponed indefinitely because of the pandemic — so they really don't know when they will have answers.

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