Wash. governor signs police benefits laws in wake of fatal shootings
Laws aimed at protecting police officers and their families
By PoliceOne Staff
LAKEWOOD, Wash. — In the wake of fatal police shootings in Washington, Gov. Chris Gregoire has approved new laws that increase state benefits for the survivors of slain police officers.
According to the Associated Press, Gregoire signed the package of bills into law at the Lakewood Police Department with relatives and friends of the four officers slain in November looking on.
"I know today is a bittersweet day. But out of this terrible tragedy, something positive — this positive — has come," Gregoire said. "You have left a legacy to law enforcement throughout our state."
According to local reports, the new legislation will allow the children of slain police officers to go to state colleges and universities tuition-free. The benefits bill will also raise the payment for survivors of police and firefighters killed on duty from $150,000 to $214,000 (and would adjust for inflation in the future).
One of the details of the benefits bill was very popular among the families of those who have had rookie officers die in the line of duty. According to the News Tribune, the requirement for 10 years of service before a family is guaranteed lifetime benefits will no longer exist.
"The life of a rookie officer is just as valuable as a 10-year veteran," said Rep. Tami Green, who supported the measure. "Each life is irreplaceable."
Moreover, officers permanently disabled on the job won’t run out of health benefits. After Former Seattle police officer Jason McKissack suffered an on-duty attack that left him with permanent brain damage, he lost his job and health coverage. Now, the McKissack Bill gives former officers in similar situations their benefits back, according to KOMO News.
Another law Gregoire signed increases the penalty for rendering assistance to a wanted murderer. This change comes after Maurice Clemmons, the shooter who murdered four Lakewood officers, was helped by friends and family during the manhunt.
According to the Associated Press, Gregoire also signed a measure that allows officials to revoke the parole or probation of offenders originally from other states, but who are currently residing in Washington. This too is inspired by the Maurice Clemmons case.
KPLU news reports that Brian Wurts, the Lakewood Police Union President, believes the new laws are a good start to improving public safety in Washington, but that more still needs to be done to guarantee that police officers and other public safety workers are protected.