Friday, August 12, 2022
SPRINGFIELD—A new bill, HB 5785, filed today would ensure funding is adequately available for the families of fallen police officers. The legislation was proposed by Comptroller Susana A. Mendoza and is sponsored by State Rep. Dave Vella, D-Rockford.
Currently, the state’s Line of Duty Compensation Act provides benefits for the families of law enforcement officers, firemen, paramedics and other first responders killed in the line of duty. However, the appropriations for these benefits can sometimes run out before the end of a fiscal year, requiring the state legislature to approve supplemental appropriations. This needlessly costs families time when they need support the most urgently.
This May at the state’s annual Illinois Police Memorial service for fallen officers in Springfield, Comptroller Mendoza met Tammy Pierce of Johnston City. Tammy was still waiting for compensation after the tragic death of her 24-year-old son Brian Pierce Jr. – a Police Officer with the Brooklyn Police Department in Southern Illinois.
Brian was killed in August 2021 when a fleeing suspect struck him by vehicle. That following December, days before Christmas, his family’s house burned down in an electrical fire. The compensation was desperately needed but had yet to be delivered when Tammy met the Comptroller in May 2022.
Tammy said she is grateful that her son’s story might help lead to positive change for surviving family members. “What it means to me is it that my son is living on and he's helping change things,” said Tammy Pierce. “Illinois was not ready for all the line-of-duty deaths in 2021. This legislation would make sure that if this sadly happens again in 2022 or beyond, these families will be compensated in a timely way,” Tammy Pierce said.
Comptroller Mendoza and State Rep. Vella are calling on the legislature to create a continuing appropriation so that families aren’t forced to wait on these benefits, which are often crucial to families who may struggle to make ends meet while grieving the loss of their loved one. Often, officers are the breadwinners for their spouses and children – making the compensation an especially crucial support.
“Each day, police, firemen and paramedics risk their lives to protect the rest of us. They sacrifice their own safety for the greater good. The state should never falter in promptly providing the families left behind with the benefits they have been promised,” said Comptroller Mendoza. “We can’t bring back the people these families loved most in this world. But we can support these families through their loss and show them through our actions, not just words, that the lives of the fallen were valued and will be honored.”
The amount of the benefit is $375,475 and increases by the Consumer Price Index each year. It is provided to the surviving spouse or next of kin. Other statewide programs that already have continuing appropriations include pensions, tax refunds and bond payments.
“When we lose a first responder in the line of duty, their family is forever changed,” State Rep. Vella said. “In their greatest time of need, it’s important and necessary that we are able to fully support them. It’s frankly inexcusable that we were unable to help a family right away because of bureaucratic hurdles. Let’s make sure that never happens again in Illinois.”
Keith Dorwart is President of Illinois Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.) which has a mission of helping rebuild the lives of survivors and co-workers affected by line-of-duty deaths.
“Illinois Concerns of Police Survivors supports any and all legislation that benefits the family members of fallen police officers who gave the ultimate sacrifice in the protection of others,” said Dorwart. “We appreciate Comptroller Mendoza's support on this issue and throughout the year, especially at the Illinois Police Memorial.”