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Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2007 06:46 pm

Time for a sergeant

With a little help from his friends

Untitled Document In June, Springfield Police Sgt. Al Jones went from being president of the patrol officers’ union to being expelled from its membership. As painful as that was for Jones, he soon learned things could get worse. In August, Jones, who has had heart problems for years, suffered his second heart attack. His cardiologist hasn’t cleared him to return to work, instead giving him written orders to avoid both physical and mental stress — directives that conflict with his job as a patrol sergeant. It took a few weeks for the realization to sink in: His law-enforcement career was over.
“I was kind of lost and in shock,” he says. “I can’t think of many professions that are more honorable. I had a great time working with those people.”
His heart attack happened when he had to stop taking blood-thinning medications in preparation for surgery to relieve a cervical radiculopothy, or pinched nerve in the neck. Jones says the neck injury occurred in 1999, when he and his partner were dispatched to a mobile home to apprehend a suspect.”
“He ran out the back of the trailer. I was in front of the trailer, so I ran through the trailer. . . . I saw my partner diving into the tree line, and I thought he was tackling the subject. So I ran into the tree line,” Jones says, “and that’s the last thing I remember clearly.”
The neck injury went undiagnosed for several months, until Jones sought medical attention for what he assumed was an infection in his arm. For seven years, he received quarterly steroid injections into his spine to relieve the pain. This past spring, Jones says, the injections quit being effective, and his doctor recommended surgery. He suffered a major heart attack two days after spinal surgery. Jones’ split with the union was a showdown over the question of legal representation. Jones wanted the union to consider a flat-rate plan offered by the statewide Policemen’s Benevolent Labor Committee. The board members of the local PBPA Unit 5 chose to stay with Springfield attorney Ron Stone, who has represented members for about 20 years. The board asked Jones to simply resign as president, but he refused [see Dusty Rhodes, “Al alone,” June 21].
Now, many union members have come to Jones’ aid. Just 47 years old, and not yet eligible for retirement, Jones has had to survive financially on his banked vacation time and sick days. When those benefits ran out, scores of his fellow officers donated their comp-time days to keep his paycheck coming. “I really want to thank everyone there that made it so good for me, from the command staff to the last guy hired before I left,” Jones says. “I want to thank everybody who’s been there for me in the past and recently.”

Contact Dusty Rhodes at drhodes@illinoistimes.com.
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