Fallen Officer Fund Signed into Law for Families of Slain Conn. Police Officers

May 16, 2024
"Our police show up to keep us safe in the most hellacious of circumstances. This bill is just one way we can say to you: We've got your back," said Gov. Ned Lamont at the bill's signing at the Connecticut Police Academy.

By Ken Dixon

Source The Middletown Press, Conn.

MERIDEN, CT — During a solemn ceremony Wednesday morning in a steady drizzle at the Connecticut Police Memorial, Gov. Ned Lamont, Comptroller Sean Scanlon, lawmakers and police chiefs from all over the state joined for a bill-signing ceremony to provide families of slain law enforcement officers with $100,000 and extended health insurance coverage.

It's a program they hope will never be used again, following the death of a Hartford police detective last September and two Bristol officers who were ambushed in October of 2022.

"Our police show up to keep us safe in the most hellacious of circumstances," Lamont said from under an umbrella before a couple dozen spectators outside the Connecticut Police Academy. "This bill is just one way we can say to you we've got your back and to your families, if there is a tragedy, we've got your back. I believe we have some of the greatest municipal and state police in the country. I think you see that in evidence of bringing down the violent crime rate at considerable risk to yourself. I think you see that in terms of the risks that police take every day on your behalf. If the ultimate sacrifice is made, I want you to know we're there, standing with you, standing with your families, making sure they get the bonus they need."

First passed by the legislature in 2023 following the shooting deaths of Bristol police officers Lt. Dustin W. DeMonte and Sgt. Alex Hamzy, the recent legislation codifies the new million-dollar Fallen Officer Fund, administered by Scanlon. This year the legislation also was expanded to include health insurance for the officer's family for five years.

"It is my sincerest hope that we're never going to have to draw money from this fund ever again," said acting Bristol Police Chief Mark Morello during a 28-minute ceremony outside the granite memorial, upon which are etched the dozens of names of police officers who died in the line of duty. "Unfortunately, history has shown that this will not be the case. While no amount of money can ever replace the loss of a loved one, this legislation can offer some comfort and financial relief to the families, when it feels like the walls are closing in after hearing that their beloved police officer will not be coming home."

The bill signing fell on national Peace Officers Memorial Day, which Hartford Police Chief Jason Thody said was an important coincidence — eight months after a fleeing motorist slammed into a police vehicle killing Detective Robert C. Garten, whose family was the first to benefit from the fund. Injured in the crash was Officer Brian Kearney.

"Every day our Connecticut law enforcement officers answer the call to protect and serve their communities," Thody said. "The only constant in their work is the uncertainty that comes with every call they take. They want to be assured that those who support them in life will be taken care of if they are called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice. Every fallen hero leaves behind a support system of broken loved ones." He said that Garten's family joined Thody and city officers this week in Washington at the National Police Memorial, where his name was added to the memorial wall.

Scanlon noted the blue light outside the Connecticut memorial on the police academy campus that stays lit around the clock in memory of the dead officers and state troopers. "There are immediate needs that the loved ones have experienced and we unfortunately know that because of tragic experiences we have had here in Connecticut recently with police offices killed in the line of duty," said Scanlon, the son and brother of police officers.

House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora, R- North Branford, said that usually, the deaths of law enforcement officers occur in faraway places and states. "When it hit home in Bristol, I think it was very personal for a lot of us who knew those families that were impacted," he said. "After the tragic event occurred, we saw the aftermath of how the families were trying to pick up the pieces and that was sort of the genesis of how can the state of Connecticut step up and do something different."

Ronnell Higgins, the commissioner of the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection which over sees the state police, is also the son of a police officer. He said that lurking in the minds of law enforcement families is the fear that their officer or trooper won't come home. After the event, both Higgins and Morello said that they are awaiting a final report from the Inspector General on the October 2022 shooting deaths of the two Bristol officers.

Morello, in an interview, said he understands the time that the Inspector General's report must take. "At the end of the day, my priority is ensuring that the report is done properly, thoroughly and that it meets everyone's approval and that it's accurate," he said. "I'm not so concerned with the speed of it. I want to make sure it's right."


(c)2024 The Middletown Press, Conn.

Visit The Middletown Press, Conn. at www.middletownpress.com

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