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Disabled in the line of duty, officer will represent cops on their pension fund board

A Chicago police officer who returned to the force despite being shot in the throat and paralyzed has been elected to represent his fellow officers on their pension fund’s board.

Mike Lappe, whose dramatic story was detailed in the Chicago Sun-Times in July, claimed victory Thursday in the seven-way race for a three-year term as a police pension board trustee.

Lappe, 58, nearly died from the injuries he suffered while responding to a disturbance in Jefferson Park 24 years ago. Still, Lappe insisted on returning work in a “limited-duty” role and now says he “can perform every kind of function, except run.”

His election comes after the Sun-Times published a series of stories about excesses in police and fire disability pay. A federal grand jury issued a subpoena recently to the police pension fund for virtually all of its records on disabled officers.

“I’d like to end my career on a high note,” Lappe said Thursday of his election to the pension fund board. “I’m pretty familiar with the issues at hand, particularly disabilities. But the more important one now is what is going on with our pensions.

“The big question is how do we get these pensions funded,” he added. “We are in some troubling times, some really tough times. And there is no easy solution.”

Lappe succeeds Mike Shields, who was elected Fraternal Order of Police president last year but continued to sit on the eight-member pension fund board. Shields did not seek another term, and the FOP endorsed Lappe. He will take office on Dec. 1.

In announcing their endorsement of Lappe on the FOP’s website, union officials told members they backed him because “we need a strong voice to stand up to Mayor [Rahm] Emanuel’s appointed city trustees” on the pension board.

Shields has been a frequent critic of Emanuel and Police Supt. Garry McCarthy. He also came into conflict with city Treasurer Stephanie Neely, one of City Hall’s representatives on the pension fund board.

Lappe suggested he would take a more diplomatic approach: “We can all get along. We all need to work together. There is no reason to alienate anybody. I don’t see the need to get hostile with another person, especially in a professional setting. I respect their positions, I really do.”