Washington (June 6, 2014) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers to introduce the Equity in Law Enforcement Act of 2014, legislation that aims to expand the federal death benefits afforded to state and local law enforcement to include first responders who serve private institutions of higher education and rail carriers. While some families of those officers serving at public universities have received line-of-duty death benefits through U.S. Department of Justice’s Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) program, the families of officers who were killed while serving at private colleges and universities have been ineligible, including the family of Patrol Officer Sean Collier of the M.I.T. Police Department, who was killed on duty on April 18, 2013 during a manhunt in the wake of the Boston Marathon attacks.
“For those who wear the badge, whether it carries the seal of state or local enforcement or the seal of a university or other institutions, this bill confirms that service to any community is a service to all communities and that service will be honored equally,” said Senator Markey. “This assistance isn’t just a line in a budget, it’s a lifeline for families who’ve suffered great loss and deserve our support. Officer Sean Collier’s only fault was that he was too brave. This legislation honors him and recognizes that in achieving his ultimate dream to serve his community, he made the ultimate sacrifice for all of us. We should recognize that sacrifice and the sacrifices of all our law enforcement officers equally and with the deepest of gratitude.”
The federal PSOB program provides financial assistance to police, firefighters, and EMTs who are gravely injured on the job and a one-time benefit payment to the survivors of public safety officers who die as a result of injuries sustained in the line of duty. The legislation also would give these additional officers access to federal grant programs for protective body armor and other equipment. The legislation would only apply to officers who are sworn, licensed or certified to enforce the law within their jurisdiction and would be retroactive to April 15, 2013.
Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Somerville) has introduced similar legislation in the House of Representatives. The Senate bill also is co-sponsored by Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).
The bipartisan proposal is supported by the National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO) and the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA).