“PUBLIC SAFETY MEMORIAL FUND BILL”
(Becomes Law August 19, 1999)
Bob Dent, left, is congratulated by Governor John Kitzhaber as
Rep. Ben Westlund watches as the “Fallen Officer’s Bill” becomes law.
(Photo by Gary Lewin)
(Reprint from “The Law Enforcement Trainer,” the official journal of the American Society of Law Enforcement Training)
Oregon ASLET Member Gets Legislation Passed to Help Surviving Families
When a police officer anywhere is killed in the line of duty, Bob Dent, ASLET member from Bend, Oregon and recently retired Oregon State Police Senior Trooper, mourns along with his fellow officers then does something about it. In the last ten years Dent has written three books that promote officer safety through verbal and non-verbal communications. His small business donates part of the proceeds from the sales to an associated non-profit foundation he created, the Constable Public Safety Memorial Foundation, Inc. The funds help pay travel expenses for children and families of officers killed in the line of duty to attend the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial activities in Washington D.C. each year. A number of surviving families from Oregon, Washington, Idaho and as far away as Florida have been helped. Dent is unsalaried as are his foundation board members including among others, ASLET’s own Executive Board Member Dave Smith, Vincent Bugliosi (Author of “Helter Skelter” and prosecutor of the Manson Family,) Mike Lynch, Pres., International Police Association (US Section), Alan Morris, Cmdr. (Ret.) Former Director of Training, US Navy SEALS Training Center, Coronado, California.
What motivated Dent into forming his foundation was a tragedy that took place in 1992…the fatal shooting of his friend and colleague, a young Oregon State Police trooper named Bret Clodfelter. It set in motion a chain of events that motivated and changed Dent’s life. Dent recalls that Clodfelter died in his patrol car after being shot four times in the back of the head by one of three men riding in the back seat. The young trooper was giving the men a ride after arresting one of them for drunk driving. He still has trouble talking about the 1992 shooting at Klamath Falls, Oregon, but what really haunts him is the death of Clodfelter’s wife, Rene’, who took her own life one year after her husband died.
They had been married just 33 days when Bret was killed, Dent recalls, his voice trailing off. It was these tragic deaths and many others like them that galvanized his commitment and compelled him to dedicating his private life to helping the families left behind to endure…but Dent was not finished.
He started a seven-year odyssey that ended a year ago with the passage of legislation he co-authored with Oregon State Rep. Ben Westlund-R. that makes convicted criminals and others that put officers at risk, fund the law with no cost to the law abiding taxpayer. The “Fallen Officer’s Bill” was signed into law by Governor John Kitzhaber after being passed unanimously in both the House and Senate. As spouses of slain police officers watched over his shoulder, Gov. John Kitzhaber signed into law a program to assist families of public safety officers killed and catastrophically injured in the line of duty. The law encompasses police officers, fire service professionals, as well as correctional, parole/probation and youth authority personnel. The Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training administers the law.
“This is an extraordinarily important bill both in terms of its substance and what it means to our public safety community,” Kitzhaber said to the standing-room-only crowd gathered in the second-floor ceremonial office. “We all recognize that our public safety officers put their lives on the line every day of the year to make Oregon a safer place to live and, when tragedy strikes, their families deserve to know that they will receive some degree of support. This bill sends a message that the state appreciates them for the dangerous work they do. It will create a much needed level of support should the worst thing happen.”
Dent’s philanthropic efforts have brought national awards, television and radio appearances, articles by national and international magazines with commendations from former President George Bush and Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber to name a few. Most recently, the Oregon Public Safety Memorial Fund Board appointed him to the Executive Board as an Ex-Officio member.
When asked what keeps him motivated to pursue his endeavors Dent candidly said, “I cannot forget the looks, the tears on the faces of all the innocent young women with children, grieving a lost husband and father suddenly taken, older couples who have unfortunately outlived their beloved son or daughter, brothers, sisters… or the troop who witnessed a partner fall. And it saddens me greatly. I’ve just been to too many funerals. I hope that this small foundation can ease the pain and suffering just a little. Nothing equals the smiles and hugs from the family and fellow officers you help. No honor or pat on the back can replace the twinkle in the eye or the smile on the face when you know you’ve touched someone’s heart…it’s just the right thing to do,” Dent said.
Author’s note: The law in part imposes a $1 dollar assessment for conviction of ALL Felonies, Misdemeanors, and traffic violations and provides the following benefits.
$25,000 cash benefit to beneficiary within 14 days of death of officer (to help with immediate living and funeral expenses).
Full paid health and dental insurance for spouse and children
12 monthly mortgage payments
4 year paid tuition to any college or university in the US for spouse and children.
The law is raising approx., $35,000 per month and as of this writing has distributed over 1/2 million dollars to the surviving families.
(Above article reprinted courtesy Frank Hackett, Executive Director, A.S.L.E.T.
Benefits for: Police, Fire, Corrections, Parole and Probation and Youth Authority Officers
(Includes Reserve Police Officers and Volunteer Firefighters)
Creates Public Safety Memorial Fund. Imposes $1 dollar assessment for conviction of all Felonies , Misdemeanors, violations or infractions (excluding parking violations). Establishes that fund be used for benefit of families of public safety officers who are killed in line of duty or while interceding in crime or who have job-related permanent total disability. (Note: Offender’s driver’s license would be suspended until assessment is paid).
Creates Public Safety Memorial Fund under the direction of the the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training for benefit of families of public safety officers who are killed in the line of duty (on or off) or who have job-related total, permanent, catastrophic disability as per ORS 656.206. The board will be comprised of 6 members appointed by the Governor from the membership of the DPSST. The members shall represent police officers, fire service personnel, corrections, parole/probation, youth authority officers and the public interest at large (and will meet at least every 3 months.) $60,000 is allocated to DPSST to administer the program.
$1.00 unitary assessment on conviction for commission of any crime, violation, infraction (excluding parking violations). Money to be placed in Public Safety Memorial Fund. (It is anticipated the fund will raise approx., $560,000 per biennium.)
Family member means: Spouse of officer; child of officer; a person who qualifies as a dependent for state income tax purposes. (Next session I will ask that law be changed to pay $25,000 benefit to parent or sibling of officer killed where officer is single.)
Public Safety Officers means: Police Officers and Reserves; Correctional Officers; Fire Service Professionals and volunteer firefighters as defined in ORS 652.050; Parole and Probation Officers; and Youth Correctional Officers.
Board to send $25,000 cash benefit to beneficiary within 14 days of death of officer ( to help with immediate living and funeral expenses). At the time an officer is hired or a volunteer used, the agency shall provide the officer with a designation of beneficiary form. Upon completion the agency must forward the form to the Memorial Fund Board. Note: The agency must notify the Memorial Fund Board within 3 days of a death of an officer. (Family has 6 months to make application for benefits.)
Board shall award benefits to spouse and each child amount to cover health and dental insurance. For five years to spouse or until remarriage whichever occurs first; and until the child reaches 18 of if in school, 23 years of age.
Spouse to receive 12 monthly mortgage payments if no insurance exists for loan payoff. (This amount will help until any insurance money arrives).
4 year paid tuition to any college or university in the US (undergraduate study only) for spouse and children. In determining the amount of scholarship, the board shall consider the applicant’s financial need, the funds available in the memorial account and the anticipated demands on the account (If several officers are killed then the amount will be prorated by the board.)
Applications can be obtained from DPSST. Subject to the availability of funds the board may award benefits to family members of officers killed or catastrophically injured after January 1, 1997, but prior to the effective date of this 1999 Act. All benefits are exempt from state income taxes. (The board will be able to accept gifts, grants and donations from public and private sources.)
At my request, Rep. Westlund has attached “Legislative Notes” with the bill that the Public Safety Memorial Board at DPSST meet with me, Rep. Westlund and several of the spouses (and/or family members of fallen officers) at their first meeting. It is our goal to impart to the board the reality of the needs of these families after sudden tragedy strikes. Hopefully we will be able to offer some policies and procedures to be followed when a death or catastrophe occurs that will foster prolonged contact with the families. It is our hope that we can prevent the feeling of hopelessness that Rene Clodfelter felt before she took her own life.
I wish I could send all of you that wrote letters and sent e-mails a personal message of thanks and appreciation. Unfortunately, I do not have the extra time or secretarial assistance to make that possible… please forgive me. I do, however, want to thank each and every one of you for your help in making phone calls, sending e-mails and helping with the testimony to the legislature. I would like to recognize all of you by name for your contribution but am quite afraid I would leave someone out. Each of you know who you are and what part you played…. you share in making this bill a reality. For that, I will always remember your friendship, kindness and support.
My small foundation will continue to solicit funds to help pay travel expenses to the National Grieving Seminars in Washington D.C. for spouses and children of officers killed in the line of duty. To those of you who have supported me in that effort… thank you for your generosity. Next year we are going to send a widow of an officer killed in 1979 who has never seen her husband’s name on the wall or attended the National Law Enforcement Officer Memorial Services.
Again, I sincerely thank each and every one of you for your support in this worthy endeavor.