Bellevue police officer who fell off overpass to lose medical benefits

Bellevue Police Officer Kevin Bereta is still recovering from a nasty fall onto I-5 last August while escorting Vice President Kamala Harris’ motorcade.

The fall happened on August 15, but per the Bellevue Police Officer’s Guild contract, he and any injured officer have 180 days of health coverage before it lapses. So the officer has hired an attorney.

“You got to understand he fell off a bridge, a 60-foot bridge,” said Bereta’s attorney, Mo Hamoudi.

Officer Bereta fell about 60 feet from the Michigan Street bridge onto I-5 while trying to keep pace with the motorcade.

“The task requires you to travel at high speeds and to maneuver at high speeds. It’s because the motorcade, the secret service moves at high speeds from one location to the next for security purposes so he was just doing his job.”

Hamoudi added, “He was negotiating a turn trying to follow the vice president’s vehicle and he couldn’t negotiate it because the speed that he was going.”

Officer Bereta spent about a month in the hospital after suffering a list of lengthy injuries from several fractured bones, torn or severed ligaments, and spinal cord injuries. The officer’s recovery clock started ticking, because of the injury clause in the Bellevue Police Officer’s Guild contract.

“His health benefits lapse within 180 days from when he is injured,” said Hamoudi.

Day 181 hits Friday, and the Bereta’s will have to switch to Cobra Alternative Health Insurance.

“Both [Kevin and his wife Jenny] of them public servants have 3 kids have to come up with a couple of thousand dollars a month for health insurance and they can’t afford it,” said Hamoudi.

A gofundme account has been created to support Bereta’s recovery.

City of Bellevue sent this statement in response:

When employees of the City of Bellevue are injured on the job, they are eligible for partial wage replacement and benefits coverage through the State Worker’s Compensation Program. Our city-provided benefits are consistent with other cities in the region, and they are based on best practices, medical insurance carrier contracts, and are ratified in agreements negotiated with the unions representing our employees. The city has a duty to administer our policies consistently and we will continuously evaluate these policies to ensure they reflect our value of commitment to employees and responsible stewardship to the community we serve.

In addition, the City of Bellevue works very closely with injured employees to explore all options and ways to prolong their city-provided benefits to the greatest extent possible, which includes offering light duty work when appropriate as a means to retain city-provided health coverage. The city does not arbitrarily choose to end health benefits for an employee but rather operates within established policies and contracts negotiated with our unions that are intended to cover typical circumstances. Thankfully, there are important community partners the city has coordinated with to support employees, particularly police officers, when standard policies do not meet their needs.

Officer Bereta’s attorney says even though the officer can continue coverage if he works part-time, his doctors say even light duty isn’t safe.

“[He] seriously injured himself, had multiple surgeries. For him to go back he’s at a high risk of reinjuring himself,” said Hamoudi.

He added, “It’s quite absurd we have to be here.”

The most recent union contract was ratified just a week before Officer Bereta fell from the Michigan St. bridge, but the six-month recovery period did not change from the previous contract, per the city.

Officer Bereta’s attorney also pointed out that the guard rail on the Michigan St. bridge meant to keep traffic on the bridge, is only 27 inches high.