Readout of Justice Department Meeting with Families of Fallen Officers | OPA

The Attorney General, Deputy Attorney General, and Associate Attorney General today met with families of fallen officers to discuss the importance of the passage of the Public Safety Officer Support Act of 2022. The bipartisan bill expands coverage of the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program, administered by the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, to include officers who are permanently and totally disabled due to particular mental health disorders and/or who die by suicide as a result of exposure to a traumatic event they encounter while on duty.

“Every day, public safety officers across the country put themselves in harm’s way to respond to some of the most difficult and traumatic moments that our communities face,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “The Justice Department welcomes the passage of the Public Safety Officer Support Act of 2022, which will enable us to provide support to the families of fallen officers who have died by suicide and to officers who have suffered debilitating trauma-related mental health injuries.”

“The Justice Department knows the toll that service in law enforcement can take, not only on those in uniform but also on those around them,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco. “We commend Congress for passing the Public Safety Officer Support Act of 2022. It provides critical new support to families of the fallen. We will continue to do everything we can to ensure that public safety officers throughout the law enforcement community are cared for and protected, just as they care for and protect us all.”

“Supporting public safety officers and their families after a tragic loss or catastrophic disability is one of our solemn responsibilities at the Justice Department,” said Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta. “Since 1976, the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program—administered by the Bureau of Justice Assistance—has provided nearly $2 billion in assistance to survivors of first responders. This bipartisan legislation is a welcome response to concerns expressed by the public safety community that this support be extended to recognize harms from an exposure to trauma while on duty. We commend members of Congress for their leadership on this issue and look forward to putting this bill to work on behalf of the brave professionals who serve and protect our communities.”

During the meeting, Department leadership heard directly from families about the unique grief of losing a loved one to suicide and discussed the impact this legislation will have on the healing process for families. Department officials recognized that public safety officers are routinely called to respond to stressful and potentially traumatic situations, often putting their lives in danger. 

Participating in the meeting were family members of officers Howard “Howie” Liebengood of the U.S. Capitol Police, Jeffrey Smith of the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, and Shelane Gaydos of the Fairfax County Police Department.

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