Council recommends increase in officer death benefits - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Council recommends increase in officer death benefits

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

In successive years, we've heard the shrill bagpipes of mourning. We've watched the grief-laden "homegoing" services as Memphis Police officers, who gave the ultimate sacrifice in the line of the duty, were ceremonially laid to rest.

Whether it was Timothy Warren or Martoiya Lang, we have asked ourselves the haunting question of why?

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"Unfortunately, this is happening all too often. Not only here, but across the nation, particularly with police officers," says Memphis Mayor A C Wharton.

With the impetus generated by the fatal Dec. 14, 2012, shooting of Officer Lang, city council was poised on Tuesday to vote for an ordinance change raising the maximum amount of line of duty death benefits from $100,000 to $350,000 for public safety workers and general city employees who die in the line of duty.

The ordinance would also have to be retroactive to include Ms. Lang's four surviving daughters. Instead of letting a close relative collect, new language would specify the benefit would be extended to a spouse or minor children.

"You can never pay for a life," Mayor Wharton said. "You can never buy a mother back or a father back. Anytime you lose the earning power for an individual, it's going to be a deficit and this is just one way that the city, the community, can show that we are sensitive to that."

Ms. Lang was the first female officer to die in the line of duty for the city of Memphis. She joined 62 male colleagues whose lives have been taken over the years. During the same period, more than 30 firemen have perished and a handful of MLGW workers while on duty. The increase in the death benefits matches the maximum amount available under Shelby County government's death benefit.

"It shows that there is a certain amount of respect that goes into police work, and when our officers make the ultimate sacrifice that they ... there should be some financial compensation," said Police Director Toney Armstrong. "It's a benefit I hope I never have to payout again."

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