Witt: A time to honor law enforcement officials
I'm gratified to see so many people stepping up to participate in Law Enforcement Appreciation Day. Established in 2015, Jan. 9 is our opportunity to honor the men and women who serve in law enforcement and to thank them for the daily sacrifices they make to protect our communities.
Law enforcement officers of every rank and file have chosen a profession that puts their life on the line every day for our communities. In 2019, 128 officers died in the line of duty in the United States. The majority died of gunshot wounds after responding to a domestic-related call, serving a high-risk warrant or working on an investigative activity.
The death of a law enforcement officer devastates a family in many ways, emotionally and financially. That is why I was honored to sponsor House Bill 2286 during the 2019 Legislative Session, which established a College Scholarship Fund for Fallen Public Safety Officers. Now in Oregon, a college scholarship fund exists for the children of public safety officers killed or disabled in the line of duty. The scholarships are for the cost of tuition and fees for four years of higher education. The program is funded by 10% of civil forfeiture proceeds.
HB 2286 received unanimous support in both chambers of the Legislature and was signed by Gov. Kate Brown on May 5. It was one of many pieces of legislation that took effect on Jan. 1.
Another way that the Oregon Legislature continues to honor fallen law enforcement officers is through the Roadside Memorial Fund, which was established in 2011. The legislation allows the Oregon Department of Transportation to receive and appropriate moneys to erect roadside memorial signs commemorating law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty. The Roadside Memorial program was expanded in 2013 to include members of the Armed Forces killed in Action. This past session, Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, and I sponsored Senate Bill 528 to add firefighters to the Roadside Memorial program, like Scappoose fallen firefighter Robert Hales. SB 528 also received unanimous support in both chambers, was signed by the governor on June 7, and went into effect on Jan. 1.
This week, lawmakers return to Salem for the final Legislative Days before the February short session. Legislative Days are a time for informational committee meetings, to receive reports from state agencies, hear updates on legislation implementation, and make final plans for the February session.
It is my privilege to represent you in the Oregon House of Representatives, so if you have a concern or comment or need help regarding a state issue or agency, please contact my office. I look forward to hearing from you.
Thanks for reading my newsletter, and remember: If you see a police officer, thank them for their service.
Rep. Brad Witt has representated House District 31, including Columbia County and parts of Washington and Multnomah counties, since 2005. A Democrat, he lives in Clatskanie.
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