n October 1, 1962, U.S. President John F. Kennedy signed Public Law 87-726, a joint resolution of the 87th Congress, designating May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day in honor of federal, state, and municipal peace officers who have been killed or disabled in the line of duty. Each year, the calendar week in which May 15 falls is called Police Week.
In 1994, U.S. President William J. Clinton signed Public Law 103-322, a joint resolution of the 103rd Congress, directing that the U.S. flag be flown at half-staff on all government buildings on May 15.
Flying the national colors at half-staff on National Peace Officers Memorial Day honors police officers who died in service to the community and the United States. Unfortunately, observations suggest that many local governments and business communities are unaware of the authorization to lower the national flag to half-staff on this day each year; local police executives can overcome this lack of awareness with an educational effort.
Most local communities incorporate a resolution into their municipal codes designating days that flags will be flown at halfstaff. Once local governments have identified the appropriate days, businesses and others tend to follow suit. Police executives are encouraged to ensure that May 15 is observed in the local jurisdiction’s ordinances and to conduct a local campaign to inform local businesses of this observance.
Communities across the United States have built memorials to honor peace officers who have died or become disabled in the line of duty. Each year during Police Week, departments hold open houses, conduct tours of their facilities, and hold community activities to celebrate police officers and their duties. On National Peace Officers Memorial Day, most local communities hold a memorial service in remembrance of police officers who have made the supreme sacrifice for their communities.
Public Safety Officers’ Benefits
Enacted in 1976, the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) Act (codified at 42 U.S.C. 3796 et seq.) provides death benefits in the form of a one-time payment to the eligible survivors of public safety officers when those deaths are the direct and proximate result of a traumatic injury sustained in the line of duty. The PSOB reviews nearly 700 claims submitted each year on behalf of fallen and catastrophically disabled U.S. public safety heroes and their loved ones. The amount of the PSOB benefit is $323,035.75 for eligible deaths occurring on or after October 1, 2011.
The PSOB program also provides disability benefits for public safety officers who have been permanently and totally disabled by a catastrophic personal injury sustained in the line of duty if that injury permanently prevents the officer from performing any substantial and gainful work. Medical retirement resulting from a lineof-duty disability does not automatically establish eligibility for PSOB. In addition to the PSOB program, a benefit established by the Public Safety Officers’ Educational Assistance (PSOEA) Act provides financial assistance for higher education for the spouses and children of federal, state, and local public safety officers who have been permanently disabled.
Hometown Heroes Survivors Benefits Act of 2003
Regulations governing the Hometown Heroes Survivors Benefits Act were finalized September 11, 2006, expanding the circumstances under which public safety officer deaths resulting from heart attacks and strokes may be covered by the PSOB program. This act establishes a statutory presumption that public safety officers who die from a heart attack or stroke following a nonroutine stressful or strenuous physical public safety activity or training are granted the designation of “died in the line of duty” for benefit purposes. The Hometown Heroes presumption may be overcome by “competent medical evidence to the contrary.” The act excludes actions of a “clerical, administrative, or nonmanual nature” from consideration.
PSOB Contact Information
For more information about the PSOB program or to obtain forms, contact the Benefits Office of the Bureau of Justice Assistance, 810 Seventh Street, NW, Washington, DC, 20531. The office can be reached by phone at 202-307-0635 or toll-free at 888-744-6513; by email at AskPSOB@usdoj.gov; or on its website at http://www.psob.gov. ■