Dallas Shooting: The Other Painful Cost of a Police Officer’s Death

When a Police Officer is Killed, a Financial Army Moves In

As America absorbed the news of five murdered Dallas police officers, Frederick Frazier grimly signed $2,000 checks, one after another. They were for the families of the slain.

“So many people are calling and want to donate food, travel, but the biggest thing in the world for the families of these officers is that their means of finance is gone,” said Frazier, chairman of the Assist the Officer Foundation and a Dallas cop for 21 years.

The officers killed during the Black Lives Matter march in downtown Dallas on Thursday were Lorne Ahrens, 48; Michael Krol, 40; Michael Smith, 55; Patrick Zamarripa, 32; and Brent Thompson, 43. According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, 123 law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty last year, among the more than 900,000 currently active in the U.S.

Police officers in the U.S. are poorly paid relative to the risks of the job, their unions will tell you. This is especially the case in the bigger cities: Dallas police make an average of about $54,000 a year, while a 2014 report found the base salary to be roughly $50,000. Despite charitable funds and the pension payment, the families of officers may struggle without additional help from the state and federal governments.

Dallas-based certified financial planner Wade Chessman, of Chessman Wealth Strategies, has worked with spouses of officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty. Much of their income consists of tax-free pension payments, tax-free workers compensation payments, and some life insurance from the U.S. government and local credit unions. The widow of a police officer received a year of dues from the Dallas Police Association, as well as some Social Security survivor benefits tied to work her husband did before joining the force. But in the case of a firefighter’s widow, even with all those sources, the sum total was “not enough where she can do whatever she wants,” said Chessman. “If she’s careful, it will be fine.”

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Dallas Shooting: The Other Painful Cost of a Police Officer’s Death