Park Ridge officials said fears about liability from injuries to police officers who participate in a charity "plane pull" are unfounded.
The idea that 20 members of the Park Ridge Police Department planned to help in a Sept. 21 "plane pull" at O'Hare International Airport to raise money and awareness for Special Olympics Illinois hit turbulence last month when Mayor David Schmidt asked whether the city would be liable if an officer were to be injured while participating.
Schmidt first raised concerns during an Aug. 5 meeting of the Park Ridge City Council and reiterated them a week later when aldermen met as the council's committee of the whole.
The mayor said his concerns were prompted after the city recently had to pay $100,000 for a liability claim from a police officer who was hurt moving furniture at the police station. Officers had taken part in the plane pull in the past without incident.
City officials on Aug. 19 said there is no liability to the city under the state's Workers Compensation Act because the plane pull is a "voluntary recreational activity."
"There is, of course, a second and more compelling reason why the city isn't liable for the 'plane pull,'" City Manager Shawn Hamilton said in an Aug. 19 note to the City Council. He said police officials would be planning but not competing. The plane pull "is an event that the police department coordinates but does not participate in, i.e., they don't actually 'pull the plane.' "
In the plane pull, teams of 20 compete to see who can pull a UPS Airbus A300 aircraft weighing more than 180,000 pounds a distance of 12 feet in the fastest amount of time.
In the five years the event has taken place, more than $240,000 has been raised, according to a press release.
Park Ridge police did not participate last year, but did the previous three years.