Board Rejects Police Pension for TV Actor
Kenneth Osmond, who portrayed Eddie Haskell on the “Leave It to Beaver” television series of the early 1960s and later became an embittered Los Angeles police officer, was denied a stress-related disability pension Thursday.
In a 4-2 vote, the Los Angeles Board of Pension Commissioners ruled that Osmond was capable of returning to the Police Department, even though psychiatrists speculated that his depression could return if he went back to police work.
Commissioner Kenyon Chan, describing the case as “very difficult,” nevertheless added: “The psychiatric reports that we have here indicate that this officer is doing very well and that he is a capable person, that his psychiatric condition has improved significantly . . . and suggest he may be returned to work successfully.”
Osmond’s pension bid came at a time when his acting career--dormant for years after cancellation of the television series in 1963--had suddenly taken off again.
Osmond, 43, filed for his pension in August, 1984, the same month that filming began on another cable television series called “Still the Beaver.” And he appeared last year on “Star Games,” joining other series cast members in swimming and running sprints and paddling a kayak in a pool.
Earlier this year, broadcasting tycoon Ted Turner reached an agreement with Universal Studios to produce 74 episodes of “The New Leave It to Beaver” series for Turner’s WTBS Atlanta superstation.
While there was no discussion Thursday about his acting career, the city attorney’s office pointed to it last December when Osmond appeared before a hearing examiner on his pension case.
“I think it is not simply coincidental that Mr. Osmond’s (acting) career is picking up again,” Deputy City Atty. Eudon Ferrell told examiner John Rice. “Maybe we can’t make the argument that he is another Clint Eastwood or something of that nature, but I think that he has testified himself that he did act in stints periodically during his entire time on the job.”
Osmond, who last worked in the deparment as a motorcycle officer, steadfastly denied that his renewed acting career influenced his decision to leave police work. Osmond’s attorney, Karl Moody, told the board at a July hearing that there was no evidence that Osmond was faking his ailments.
The Police Department’s medical liaison officer, Lt. Ed Gagnon, said Thursday that he would ask Osmond to return to the force today, adding that the department would have a light-duty job available for him. But Gagnon said Osmond would probably not return immediately. Osmond has 90 days to appeal for a rehearing and another 90 days thereafter to appeal to Superior Court.
The commission took a hard look at the Osmond case after stories appeared in The Times last year detailing a dramatic rise in the number of stress-related pensions paid by the city. Since that time, commissioners have approved far fewer stress-related disability pensions.
From 1980 to 1984, the board granted 175 pensions for disabilities where job stress was a primary factor. Last year, 12 were granted.
Osmond, who joined the force in 1970, could have received $1,698 a month tax free for life had his application for a service-connected pension been granted.
Osmond testified during a hearing last December that years of patrol duties, a brush with death in 1980 and run-ins with supervisors left him with feelings of anger, frustration and disgust.
Osmond survived two shooting incidents that psychiatrists believed accelerated his depression. In one incident, a gunman shot him in the chest, but he survived because he was wearing a bulletproof vest. A month later, a bullet fired by a security guard reportedly came so close to Osmond that it parted his hair. Osmond said he was only visited twice by supervisors when he went off sick in 1981 and 1982.
“It gave me a great deal of doubt as to the camaraderie that I had been taught existed ever since I first entered the (Police) Academy,” he said. “I don’t believe it exists.”
Osmond returned to police work after the shootings, but developed depression and other stress-related symptoms, psychiatrists told the Pension Board.
Osmond refused to discuss his case with a reporter Thursday, but in his testimony last December before the hearing examiner, he said “thousands” of incidents over the years pushed him into leaving the department.
“I don’t think I could work for the Police Department in any capacity because it’s totally useless,” he said. “It’s not ‘Do a good job and you’ll be rewarded.’ It’s ‘Do a bad job and we’re going to get you.’ There is no middle ground,” Osmond said of the department.
He charged that in 1971, he became a victim of mistaken identity and was thought to be pornographic film star John Holmes. He said he was called into Internal Affairs and asked to disrobe to prove his real identity.
“It was just one of the more flagrant reasons to believe that a policeman doesn’t have any rights, and a policeman has nobody behind him except himself,” Osmond said.
On another occasion in the mid-1970s, while working at North Hollywood Division, Osmond admitted that after learning he was being investigated by two vice sergeants who had secretly tape-recorded him, he burglarized his captain’s office, looking for the authorization form.
He said he was unaware of any complaint by a citizen or his supervisors that prompted the investigation. When he asked about the incidents, Osmond said, department spokesmen had no reply.