United States Senator Mary Landrieu, D-La., today honored the police officers who lost their lives in the line of duty last year and are being honored during this year's National Police Week. Two Louisiana officers are among the officers who will be recognized this year and whose names are being formally dedicated on the walls of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C.
"Police Week is a real affirmation of the role of our nation's law enforcement and it is a very important support opportunity for the families so that you - the wives and the spouses and the parents and the children- all know that you are not alone," Sen. Landrieu said. "You are supported by the arms of not just your fellow officers, but by the strong arms of United States of America, our flag and our constitution. We are all so proud and grateful for the sacrifices you have made and continue to make for our communities."
The two Louisiana officers who lost their lives in the line of duty last year were Detective Robert E. Beane from the Beauregard Parish Sheriff's Office and Deputy Richard Stiles, Jr. from the East Feliciana Parish Sheriff's Office. The families and colleagues of these fallen officers - as well as other Louisiana law enforcement officials - joined Sen. Landrieu today.
"Just coming here today and getting to bring my family and all the guys from the department means a lot to us," said Officer Dale Sharp of the Beauregard Parish Sheriff's Office. "It's unbelievable the overwhelming presence of police officers how courteous they are to us and here for us. Just getting off the plane and having the Honor Guard there waiting for us, it was a wonderful thing. I hate that I'm here on this situation and sad on that account, but I'm honored to be here to do this for my friend and my colleague."
"It's a great honor and privilege to come and support of a friend, one of our leaders for our SWAT team," said Officer Brian Leedom of the Beauregard Parish Sheriff's Office. "It's overwhelming all of the support and just in one day all the new type of friends we've made just talking to people. Everybody's been exceptionally great and welcomed us here. It's awesome to be here to honor him in this way and we wouldn't do it in any other way for the family other than to be here to help them too."
"It's an honor for Sen. Landrieu to have us here and all she's doing to support law enforcement," said Officer Lance Grant of the Beauregard Parish Sheriff's Office. "We're just here to support Robby and his family and see if we can get them through this week and get back home safely. What Robby did, he saved all three of our lives by taking the blunt of the accident. He turned and his side took the most impact and that's what saved our lives and I just want to thank him for that."
"I brought my family, they got out and worked and raised $6000 between my family members," said Richard Stiles Sr., father of Deputy Richard Stiles, Jr. "The people of Ruston and Baton Rouge put on a fundraiser for us. A lot of people helped us get here. My son died in the line of duty and he should have been taken care of. I appreciate Miss Landrieu listening to what I have to say."
Louisiana's TOP COP
Sen. Landrieu was also joined by Louisiana's TOP COP, Sgt. Richard Welch of the New Orleans Police Department. He will be recognized this week at the National Association of Police Organizations' 17th Annual TOP COPS awards. Each year TOP COPS pays tribute to outstanding law enforcement officers across the country for actions above and beyond the call of duty. President Barack Obama honored the award winners at a White House ceremony this week.
"It's certainly a pleasure being here. I mean it was totally an honor meeting Senator Landrieu, she was very gracious to us," said Sgt. Welch. "The TOP COPS award is a fabulous honor. I mean they pick one cop per state, and I got it for Louisiana, and I couldn't be more thrilled and honored to be receiving it tonight and to be here for Police Week."
The First Responders Support Act
Sen. Landrieu also discussed the First Responders Support Act, S. 2885, which she introduced last year to strengthen and broaden the benefits provided to police officers and firefighters injured or killed in the line of duty, as well as their families.
"I want to make sure, that whether you are from a big city like New York City or you are from Saint Francisville or East Feliciana or Gonzales or Beauregard or DeRidder or Ruston or Shreveport, that when you put that uniform or a badge on, like the ones you see here today, that it means something," Sen. Landrieu said. "That the country is going to stand by you regardless of whether you are from a parish that has 10 elected officials or 2, or whether you are from a parish that just does not have the capacity of funding that some of the other larger cities might have, so that your families and children are taken care of."
The First Responders Act streamlines the Department of Justice's Public Safety Officers' Benefits Program and increases benefits for spouses and children of deceased public safety officers, such as police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians.
Under existing law, surviving family members receive a one-time payment of $311,810. The legislation would increase the benefit to $350,000.
The legislation increases the lifetime educational benefit allowed under the Public Safety Officers' Educational Assistance (PSOEA) Benefit Program. Under the current law, this program can assist eligible officers, surviving spouses, or children with tuition and fees, room and board, books, supplies, and other education-related costs. As of October 1, 2009, the maximum award for a full-time student is $925 per month of class attendance. An individual can only take advantage of the benefit for a maximum of 45 months over his or her lifetime--totaling $41,625 at $925 per month of class attendance. The legislation increases the benefit to $1,500 per month, totaling $67,500 over an individual's lifetime. This roughly reflects the average cost of attending college in the United States.
The legislation also creates an office within the Department of Justice that distributes grants to local organizations that provide free or reduced cost mental health services and counseling to family members of fallen officers and firefighters, or seriously injured first responders who are struggling to recover from an injury. The office will serve as a clearinghouse for state and local first responders and their families so that they can find such services for free or at discounted rates.
IMPROVING PROGRAM EFFECTIVENESS
Expediting Claims/Benefits: This legislation would require that the Department of Justice's Public Safety Officers' Benefits Program provide claimants with a status report and disposition of benefits claims within six months of submitting a complete claims application and all necessary supplemental information. In addition, this legislation requires that all benefits be paid to the designated beneficiaries within 12 months of submitting a completed claim.
Education and Outreach: Currently, the Department of Justice's Public Safety Officers' Benefits Program conducts periodic national training for law enforcement officials to educate eligible agencies on filing and processing of Public Safety Officer Benefit Program claims. This legislation authorizes the appropriation of $2 million a year from FY 2011-2015 to hire employees and obtain necessary technology and equipment to further outreach and education of eligible agencies. In addition, the legislation authorizes the appropriation of $800,000 a year from FY2011-FY2015 for the education and assistance of eligible agencies located in rural areas.
Prioritization of Claims: The legislation directs the director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance to create and adopt a system for the prioritization of claims. This system will be based on the severity of the claims and amount of definitive evidence provided by the claimant. For example, priority may be given to claims where the eligible beneficiaries are the survivors of a deceased officer or the eligible officer suffers from total and complete paralysis.
Photographs are available for publication:
* Sen. Landrieu at a Thursday event honoring Louisiana's fallen officers. She is joined by Members of the Beauregard Parish Sheriff's Office and Joslynn Beane, the daughter of Detective Robert E. Beane. Detective Beane was killed in the line of duty in 2009 http://landrieu.senate.gov/mediacenter/upload/10.05.13_Cops_week/DSC_0057.JPG
* Sen. Landrieu at a Thursday event honoring Louisiana's fallen officers. She is joined by Members of the Beauregard Parish Sheriff's Office http://landrieu.senate.gov/mediacenter/upload/10.05.13_Cops_week/DSC_0078.JPG
* Sen. Landrieu at a Thursday event honoring Louisiana's fallen officers. She is joined by Louisiana's Top Cop Award Winner, Sgt. Richard Welch of the New Orleans Police Department http://landrieu.senate.gov/mediacenter/upload/10.05.13_Cops_week/DSC_0116.JPG