President Obama's proposed reduction of death benefits is "meaningless" and will not reduce the amount paid to survivors who lose their loved ones in the line of duty, according to a leading grief-support agency for law enforcement families.
The Public Safety Officers' Death Benefits Program provides families of slain officers with a $300,000 lump-sum payment. Between 140 and 160 officers are killed in the line of duty each year.
"After speaking with Laurie Robinson and the Bureau of Justice Assistance at the Department of Justice, we have been assured that this reduction will have no impact on PSOB or the benefit paid to surviving families of fallen public safety officers," says Suzie Sawyer, the executive director for Concerns of Police Survivors. "The law that provides for PSOB is written in a way that allows Justice to use "such sums as may be necessary" to administer the PSOB program."
The group's national office in Camdenton, Mo., issued its tacit endorsement of Obama’s proposal May 8. That same day, the Los Angeles Police Protective League (LAPPL) fired off its own letter to Obama "expressing disappointment in the administration’s proposal to cut almost in half the benefits program for the families of slain police and safety officers."
Obama's budget proposal reduces the amount of funds allocated to the benefits program from $110 million to $60 million, leaving an amount that still easily covers the annual payouts.
Still, Paul M. Weber, LAPPL president, questioned Obama's commitment to law enforcement in a statement. The league represents the 9,800 officers of the Los Angeles Police Department.
"It is especially disheartening to see the tremendous cut in the program," according to Weber's statement. "Are the families of police officers killed in the line of duty, while serving our community, lower on the priority list of this administration than a corporate bailout?"
Weber added that he hoped Obama would "take the opportunity during National Police Week to state support for full funding of the program for the families of slain police and safety officers."
Several law enforcement memorial events were scheduled for Washington D.C. during National Police Week from May 10-16.
The fund is expected to cover all paid benefits after the cut. If a shortfall caused by an incident such as 9-11 were to happen, the Department of Justice could pay survivor claims "simply by asking for more money from the Department of Treasury," according to Sawyer.