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Lamont signs CT bill codifying benefits for families of fallen officers

Gov. Ned Lamont signs a bill providing financial assistance and health insurance to the families of police officers who die in the line of duty.
Mark Pazniokas
/
CT Mirror
Gov. Ned Lamont signs a bill providing financial assistance and health insurance to the families of police officers who die in the line of duty.

Under a steady drizzle by a memorial to fallen police officers, Gov. Ned Lamont on Wednesday signed a bill codifying a Connecticut policy that provides financial and health benefits to the families of officers who die in the line of duty.

The bill signing at the Connecticut Police Memorial on the grounds of the police academy in Meriden came on Peace Officers Memorial Day and was witnessed by the police chiefs of Bristol and Hartford, cities that lost officers in 2022 and 2023.

“No amount of money can ever replace the loss of a loved one, but this legislation can offer some comfort and financial relief to families when it feels like the walls are closing in at the hearing that their beloved police officer will not be coming home,” said interim Chief Mark Morello of Bristol.

The ambush murders of Lt. Dustin DeMonte and Sgt. Alex Hamzy in Bristol prompted the General Assembly at the urging of House Republicans to hastily create a fund for the families of fallen officers, leaving it to Comptroller Sean Scanlon to flesh out details.

The bill signed Wednesday places Scanlon’s policies into a state law requiring the payment of $100,000 to the surviving family or beneficiary of any Connecticut police officer who dies from injuries sustained on duty.

“Every day, our Connecticut law enforcement officers answer the call to protect and serve their communities. The only constant in their work is the uncertainty that comes with every call that they take,” said Chief Jason Thody of Hartford.

In September, an officer assigned to a street crimes unit, Bobby Garten, was killed and his partner injured when a car driven by someone fleeing a police traffic stop crashed into their cruiser.

Thody said every officer worries how their families would fare financially if they die on the job.

“This bill will undoubtedly ease that burden, whether we’re talking about a young officer who was taken before he or she can start a family — like Detective Garten or Sgt. Hamzy — or an officer like Lt. DeMonte, who left behind a pregnant wife and two daughters,” Thody said.

House Minority Leader Vincent J. Candelora, R-North Branford, described working with Scanlon, a Democrat who is the son and brother of police officers, to develop a policy broader than a lump sum.

“The comptroller really looked at it and said, ‘How can we help, you know, not just write a check, but what pressures can we take off for the families?’” Candelora said.

The result was continued health coverage for up to five years.

“So, it’s just one small step for us,” Candelora said, “I think to try to provide support to our officers to let them know, ‘The state of Connecticut is here for you. In tragedy, if the unthinkable happens, Connecticut will have your backs.’”

Lamont noted the weather.

“And maybe it’s fitting that we’re here [in the rain] because our police show up to keep us safe in the most hellacious of circumstances,” Lamont said.

He agreed with Candelora. He said, “This bill is just one way that we can say to you, we’ve got your back.”

This story was originally published by the Connecticut Mirror.

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