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Taking care of injured and killed officers and their families

by Barry Usher
| March 26, 2023 12:00 AM

In recent years talk of defunding the police has been popular in other states, but our Montana values run contrary to that line of thinking. We believe in supporting those who put their lives on the line to protect citizens every day. To that end I have recently introduced Senate Bill 294. SB 294 establishes the End of Watch Trust.

The purpose of this End of Watch Trust is to make sure that we are taking care of police officers and their families if something awful should happen and an officer is killed or suffers a catastrophic injury in the line of duty. It is our responsibility that we are protecting those who protect us, and SB 294 is a very clear way to do that.

The Trust will provide a benefit that last for five years from the date of the event. The benefit will be a monthly stipend during that five-year period. The purpose of this is to help support officers who may not be able to provide their family with an income after the injury, and presumably with added medical expenses.

The bill also helps to enroll officers’ spouses and dependents in COBRA continuing coverage. The officer’s employer will cover the premiums for the first four months following the injury at which point the officer or family will be responsible for covering the premiums. After that the officer and or his family will be responsible for the payments. This is important because in addition to making sure these families are taken care of financially, they also need to have their medical needs met.

In Montana we back the blue and it’s time for us to codify that support. SB 294 and the End of Watch Trust are a very important way for us to do that. Police officers are risking their lives for us every time they put on the uniform. It’s critical that we remove any doubt or fear from their minds that they and their families will be taken care of if the worst should happen, and that’s what SB 294 is all about.

Sen. Barry Usher is a Republican who represents Forsyth, Roundup, and other rural communities of Senate District 20 in the Montana Legislature. He is a veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard and serves in legislative leadership as a Majority Whip.