DAVIDSON – A town police officer was killed in the line of duty more than a decade ago. A group of concerned residents wants to be prepared if it happens again.
Resident Mickey Pettus presented a proposal for a Public Safety Officer Relief Fund during the March 26 Davidson board work session. It includes establishing a 501c3 led by a board of directors to provide funding for police officers' families who have someone killed in the line of duty.
The goal is to meet immediate and discretionary expenses until insurance claims and other funding come through. A second component is offering opportunities to learn more about benefit planning through the N.C. Concerns of Police Survivors group.
The proposal sets a target of $500,000 to be raised over a period of five years. One family has already underwritten up to $25,000 during the first two years. Two law firms have offered to help in the 501c3 and incorporation efforts and to offer families will and testament services free of charge.
“We want to strongly get the community involved in developing the program,” Pettus said.
Families of slain officers would receive a minimum of $25,000, but it would be up to the board how much they get. They might also extend support for officers who become disabled.
Commissioners opted to table the matter before endorsing it, but the initiative stemmed from ideas by Mayor John Woods and Commissioner Jim Fuller and has been planned through a grassroots effort.
Fuller said it’s the moment every family dreads and is something the community gets concerned about.
The last Davidson Police officer death was 26-year-old Officer Mark Swaney on Christmas Day in 1997. Each year, 140-160 officers are killed in the line of duty in the United States.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t have that in place,” Pettus said of the last occurrence. “We need to rally the troops.”
Since August, a committee has met monthly to discuss, “what we could do, what we should do and what must we do if one of the police officers are killed in the line of duty,” Fuller said.
While at the Detroit police academy, Davidson Police Chief Jeanne Miller remembers getting the phone call that a friend’s police officer husband had been shot. By the end of the academy, two other police shootings had occurred.
“Just to take young people in the prime of their lives and have them so suddenly wretched from you,” Miller said. “It’s a tough thing, but it’s doubly tough when there are children.”
She ensures she says, “I love you” to her family each day and that the Davidson officers focus on serving residents while keeping open communication about potential things happening in the community to stay safe.
Firefighters have a program in place in case of an incident, paid in part by fire tax. The committee wants to ensure police officers are also covered in some way.
“In a profession that’s predominately male, now you have a single mom,” Miller said of what happens when a tragedy occurs. “It’s an emotional thing to have a husband and father taken from you, especially in such a violent way.”
She is grateful for Fuller and the other members of the community who have taken part in the effort.
Anyone interested in helping the initiative, should e-mail Pettus at firstname.lastname@example.org.