House bill would ensure funds for families of fallen police officers

The Illinois State Police Memorial in Springfield.

A new bill, HB 5785 would ensure funding is adequately available for the families of fallen police officers. The legislation was proposed by Comptroller Susana A. Mendoza and is sponsored by State Rep. Dave Vella, D-Rockford.

Currently, the state’s Line of Duty Compensation Act provides benefits for the families of law enforcement officers, firemen, paramedics and other first responders killed in the line of duty. However, the appropriations for these benefits can sometimes run out before the end of a fiscal year, requiring the state legislature to approve supplemental appropriations. This needlessly costs families time when they need support the most urgently.

At the state’s annual Illinois Police Memorial service for fallen officers in Springfield earlier this year, Comptroller Mendoza met Tammy Pierce of Johnston City. Pierce was still waiting for compensation after the tragic death of her 24-year-old son Brian Pierce Jr. — a police officer with the Brooklyn Police Department in Southern Illinois.

Her son was killed in August 2021 when a fleeing suspect struck him by vehicle. That following December, days before Christmas, his family’s house burned down in an electrical fire. The compensation was desperately needed but had yet to be delivered when Pierce met the Comptroller in May.

“What it means to me is it that my son is living on and he’s helping change things,” said Pierce. “Illinois was not ready for all the line-of-duty deaths in 2021. This legislation would make sure that if this sadly happens again in 2022 or beyond, these families will be compensated in a timely way,” Tammy Pierce said.

Comptroller Mendoza and State Rep. Vella are calling on the legislature to create a continuing appropriation so that families aren’t forced to wait on these benefits, which are often crucial to families who may struggle to make ends meet while grieving the loss of their loved one. Often, officers are the breadwinners for their spouses and children – making the compensation an especially crucial support.

“Each day, police, firemen and paramedics risk their lives to protect the rest of us. They sacrifice their own safety for the greater good. The state should never falter in promptly providing the families left behind with the benefits they have been promised,” said Mendoza. “We can’t bring back the people these families loved most in this world. But we can support these families through their loss and show them through our actions, not just words, that the lives of the fallen were valued and will be honored.”

The amount of the benefit is $375,475 and increases by the Consumer Price Index each year. It is provided to the surviving spouse or next of kin. Other statewide programs that already have continuing appropriations include pensions, tax refunds and bond payments.