A gunbattle that left two sheriff’s deputies dead in southern Idaho back in 2001 became the legislative catalyst for improving the state’s support for families of fallen officers.
“That was the incident that caused us to start thinking about survivor benefits,” said former Ada County Sheriff Vaughn Killeen, who now serves as executive director of the Idaho Sheriffs’ Association and helped spearhead the push for greater state support in 2002. “The shooting was fresh in everyone’s mind. We had no problem whatsoever … getting the bill through the Legislature on the first try.”
Now, family members of slain police officers in Idaho are eligible for state and federal cash payments, plus monthly pension and other benefits including college tuition waivers and scholarships.
Similar packages are available in most states, though dollar amounts vary, and – as in Idaho – often are augmented with support from local governments, private organizations and individual community members.
The U.S. Justice Department typically is the single-largest contributor.
In October, it increased its cash payment to $339,310 for family members of each officer killed in the line of duty as part of its Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program.
The state of Idaho pays an additional $100,000, which is the benefit that was added following the fatal 2001 shootout in Jerome County.
Surviving spouses are eligible for lifetime monthly payments from the Idaho state pension system, with the actual amount varying based on a complex formula, agency spokesman Kelly Cross said. They also can receive monthly benefits under the state workers’ compensation program because a death in the line of duty is considered a workplace fatality, officials said.
“We’ve been able to make sure there’s benefits for survivors and children,” Killeen said, noting the state’s support also includes eligibility for scholarships and that tuition is waived at all Idaho colleges and universities.
In Coeur d’Alene, where police Sgt. Greg Moore was killed in the line of duty Tuesday, his survivors also will continue to receive the fallen officer’s base pay for three months under a provision included in the police department’s labor contract, according to the city’s human resources department.
Moore is the first line-of-duty death in Idaho since a Lincoln County sheriff’s deputy was killed in a car wreck in July 2009 and is the first in Kootenai County since Idaho State Police Trooper Linda Huff was shot and killed in the parking lot behind the state police offices in Coeur d’Alene in June 1998.
On Wednesday, the head of the Idaho Peace Officers’ Memorial gave the Moore family a check for $10,000 to help pay for any family needs, which the nonprofit group does anytime an Idaho officer is killed on duty. The group plans to add Moore’s name next year to the fallen officer memorial on the grounds of the Idaho State Police headquarters in Meridian, said Mike Johnson, the group’s president. His name also will be added to a memorial in Washington, D.C., Johnson said.