A Mesa police officer diagnosed with a terminal illness is fighting both for his life and his job. Officer Mark Kelly, 30, said he was told by assistant police Chief John Meza last week that city officials told him Kelly can no longer work for the Mesa Police Department because of his medical condition. Kelly hopes to hear late Wednesday whether he’ll get that job back.
A Mesa police officer diagnosed with a terminal illness is fighting both for his life and his job.
Officer Mark Kelly, 30, said he was told by assistant police Chief John Meza last week that city officials told him Kelly can no longer work for the Mesa Police Department because of his medical condition. Kelly hopes to hear late Wednesday whether he’ll get that job back.
In April, Kelly was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, a terminal neurological disorder that destroys the nerve connections between muscles and the brain. He was given two to five years to live.
He has been performing light duties, such as answering phones, taking reports over the phone and handling walk-ins for the past several months at the Red Mountain District station, and told the Tribune on Wednesday that he still is physically capable of performing those duties.
However, at issue with the city is that it did not approve Kelly’s move to transitional light duty.
Members of the Mesa Police Association and the Fraternal Order of Police Mesa Lodge No. 9, the city’s two police unions that Kelly is a member of, are trying to help him get his job back as he rides out his 275 remaining hours of vacation and personal comp time.
“I was told without notice,” Kelly said of his early retirement notice. “I may not be able to hold a gun and make a physical arrest, but I can investigate and do other jobs such as take reports. This isn’t coming from the Mesa Police Department, but the city. The police department has been great through all of this.”
Although Kelly types by using only his right hand because his left hand has less mobility, he recently purchased a laptop computer that helps him take reports over the phone easier, he said.
In recent months, thousands of dollars have been raised through fundraisers and benefits for Kelly’s family.
A number of Kelly’s colleagues also are donating their vacation and medical leave time to him, but once that runs out, he would receive $10,000 a year from his pension.
Kelly and his wife have four sons and a fifth child on the way.
“I am trying to protect my family financially in the event of my death,” Kelly said. “The longer I am on the job, the more my public safety retirement pension will be. There needs to be some kind of policy in place when officers come down with certain types of conditions or illnesses.”
Currently, the city has a fit-for-duty policy in which a police officer can be tested at any time to make sure he is fit for duty such as being able to run, shoot a gun and make a physical arrest, duties that a street officer is required to perform, according to Nate Gafvert, grievance chairman for the Mesa Police Association.
However, officers hold various jobs within the department that do not require them to perform physical tasks, Gafvert said.
“We’re hoping through all of this that we can work with the city and see if they can reconsider how they do business in regards to these situations,” Gafvert said. “The negative aspect of this is that the time being donated to Mark is eventually going to run out.”
Mesa City Manager Chris Brady was unavailable for comment, but Kelly’s job situation was scheduled to be discussed late Wednesday.