Dutchess County Legislature

After horrific dog attack on officer, Dutchess legislators propose expanded protection

Poughkeepsie, New York, January 15, 2020—Ten Dutchess County legislators proposed a bill today to provide probation officers with protections currently provided to other peace officers in the county: full pay, benefits, and medical and hospitalization coverage while recovering from wounds or injuries sustained on the job.

“Our law enforcement officers protect us. We need to protect them,” said Legislator Rebecca Edwards (D-Poughkeepsie), leader of the Democratic caucus, whose members unanimously support the resolution. “All our officers should have that protection equally.”

Legislator Hannah Black (D-Hyde Park) said, “I implore fellow legislators to stand with our Dutchess County probation officers by passing 207c legislation to help protect our officers, so they can continue to help protect us and keep our community safe. We must step up and take care of our probation officers as they deserve the same line of duty benefit as our law enforcement officers receive.”

The vulnerability of probation officers was illustrated by a recent case in Dutchess. On June 30, 2018, Officer Michele Pfeil, a 29-year veteran of the department, suffered near-fatal wounds inflicted by attack dogs. At the time, Officer Pfeil was conducting an employment check on a probationer on electronic monitoring in the Town of Milan.  As she stepped out of her car, having picked up the monitoring signal, she was knocked down by two trained attacked dogs—Great Danes–which ripped into her arms, legs, shoulder, and abdomen. 

Using her arms to protect her face and neck, Officer Pfeil was not able to reach her firearm. When the dogs retreated, she managed to get into her car and coast down the driveway to a firehouse parking lot across the street, where she called for help by police radio. New York State Troopers and Dutchess County Sheriff’s Deputies arrived immediately and used Quick Clot bandages to stem the bleeding of her most serious wounds. Officer Pfeil was transported by ambulance to Northern Dutchess Hospital before being transferred to Albany Medical Center with near-fatal blood loss.

Officer Pfeil expressed enduring gratitude to the officers who responded. “The doctors said if they had not gotten there and applied Quick Clot, I would have died,” she said. Probation Officer Mary Ellen McCue noted that Pfeil’s quick thinking helped save her life.  “She is one of our most experienced, physically fit, and well-trained officers,” McCue said.  “If this had happened to a less-experienced officer it likely would have been fatal.”

The dogs were taken into custody by Milan Animal Control and quarantined. A judge subsequently returned them to their owner, who stated that the dogs “did what they were trained to do.”  No charges were filed.

After a year and a half of intensive treatment, Officer Pfeil continues to carry severe physical and emotional scars from the attack. Medical treatment is ongoing.

Before the attack, Officer Pfeil had planned to retire with her full 30-year pension. After her benefit time and worker’s compensation ran out, however, her time towards retirement no longer accumulated, and she remained six months short of eligibility for full retirement. Officer Pfeil was given the choice of returning to work full time, despite continued physical and emotional pain, or being penalized for not completing the final few months, and having to retire with a reduced pension. 

Legislator Brennan Kearney, D-Rhinebeck, said, “When an officer is recovering from terrible wounds like these, incurred in the line of duty, they and their families should not have to worry about medical expenses, or about not being able to pay the bills or access retirement benefits, while focusing on recovery. Medical bills should be automatically paid.”  She noted that Nassau County has extended 207c to probation officers since 1999.

Legislator Craig Brendli (D-Poughkeepsie) stated, “It’s imperative that we support our law enforcement officers as they protect us in our community.”

If placed on the agenda by the Chair, the resolution will be discussed in committee on February 6 and potentially by the full legislature on February 10. Extending the provision, through section 207c of New York State General Municipal Law, requires “home rule” authorization from New York State.  The resolution submitted today would request that authorization. Were that granted, the Dutchess legislature would make a final decision about extending the protection.

Officer Pfeil stated that, “just like police and other law enforcement, probation officers face criminals every day—sometimes alone and unarmed.  They need the same protections as anyone does, who is dedicating his or her life to keeping the public safe.”

For further information contact:

Rebecca Edwards, Minority Leader
Dutchess County Legislator (District 6, Poughkeepsie) 845-705-3778 (voice, text)

Nick Page, Assistant Minority Leader
Dutchess County Legislator (District 18, Beacon/Fishkill) 617-335-4446 (voice, text)

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