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Hundreds line up to pay respects to slain Racine officer (copy)

The procession for Racine Police Officer John Hetland makes its to Racine after his funeral at Carthage College in Kenosha.

If a police officer should lose his or her life in the line of duty, the loss experienced by the officer’s family can go beyond that of the death a loved one. In some cases, the officer’s death means the family loses health insurance.

In the Wisconsin Legislature, Senate Bill 266 and Assembly Bill 300, introduced June 7, would provide insurance to the spouses and children of officers who have died in the line of duty.

The bills have bipartisan support; the Senate bill is co-authored by Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, and Janet Bewley, D-Mason.

Wanggaard said the bill only would apply to officers who lose their life responding to an emergency, and the bill could be modified to apply retroactively to the beginning of 2019 so the families of the fallen officers in Milwaukee and Racine Police Officer John Hetland’s family could be compensated.

If passed, the insurance would be paid for by the police and fire fee on phone bills.

In the current system, Wanggaard said that fee is distributed to municipalities through shared revenue and it is up to the municipalities to decide if they want to use that money for their local police and fire departments or for some other use.

Wanggaard, a former Racine police officer, said some larger departments have policies that provide insurance to families if a loved one is killed in the line of duty, but many smaller departments do not have such an arrangement. “If we lose an officer from a smaller department, that’s still a loss to the state,” Wanggaard said.

The bill is still in the committee process, but it’s one that we hope will receive strong bipartisan support.

Sturtevant Police Chief Sean Marschke, who is president of the Wisconsin Chiefs of Police Association, said it’s time for public officials to show their commitment to law enforcement.

“We are asking the Wisconsin Legislature to support those who give the ultimate sacrifice to keep our communities safe and our loved ones secure,” Marschke said in a statement. “This bill will give the families of fallen officers the same protections of those in the military and in firefighting. It is the right thing to do and the right time to do it.”

Agreed, Chief Marschke.

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