Over three years since suffering a life-changing back injury, Fort Worth Police Officer Kellie Whitehead is fighting with the city to be paid during her recovery.
Whitehead, a 19-year veteran of the department, was severely injured when she was rear-ended on the job in 2016.
"When I was hit it just kind of pushed my spine inwards," Whitehead said.
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In 2018, a surgery recommended by her doctor was declined by the City of Fort Worth's insurance provider. A less invasive, and ultimately unsuccessful, surgery, according to Whitehead, was later performed. Last month, she underwent the originally recommended surgery and is undergoing rehab and recovery expected to last about a year.
"This should have been fixed years ago and I should have been out on the streets," she said.
Earlier this year the Fort Worth City Council voted not to extend her occupational leave. Whitehead said it left her in an impossible situation, get the surgery she needed and be without pay, or return to work unable to serve at her best suffering from chronic pain.
In a statement on the decision not to extend her occupational leave, the City of Fort Worth said in part:
"Our extension of benefit goes beyond what other municipalities provide and is also more than the Local Texas Government Code requires."
Fort Worth Police Officers' Association President Manny Ramirez said the union continues to lobby on Whitehead's behalf.
"The system is not working," Ramirez said. "We need to clean up how we handle this, Kellie Whitehead is the worst case scenario."
Whitehead said she hopes to return to the job she loves, but remains angry and frustrated with the city.
"To get hurt one time, I feel like I was thrown away," she said.