The murders of two Harford County Sheriff's Office deputies earlier this month has prompted the introduction of a bill before the Maryland General Assembly to extend the length of time for paying death benefits from the state pension system to the children of law enforcement officers who die in the line of duty.
House Bill 1581, introduced Monday by Harford County's eight-member delegation, would allow monthly death benefits to be paid to each surviving child until their 26th birthday, instead of 18 as the law currently states, if the officer didn't have a surviving spouse.
The legislation is titled the "Harford County Deputy Sheriff Patrick Dailey Benefits Memorial Act," in recognition of one of the two deputies fatally shot in Abingdon on Feb. 10, the first such violent deaths experienced by the Sheriff's Office in more that 100 years.
Because the bill was introduced after the so-called courtesy introduction deadline, it came in as an emergency measure and was first referred to the House Rules and Executive Nominations Committee, which by Tuesday had referred it to the Appropriations Committee, where a hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, March 1, at 1 p.m. No fiscal impact report had been produced on the bill as of Thursday afternoon.
Senior Deputy Dailey, 52, a 30-year veteran of the Sheriff's Office, and Deputy First Class Mark Logsdon, 43, a 16-year veteran, were killed after Senior Deputy Dailey responded to a call for a suspicious person inside a Panera Bread restaurant and was shot to death by a man police have identified as David Brian Evans, 68. Responding to the call for an officer down, police said, DFC Logsdon was fatally shot by Evans in a nearby parking lot. Other responding deputies then shot Evans to death.
DFC Logsdon is survived by three children and his wife, Jennifer, who is eligible to receive a state pension system benefit for the remainder of her life.
Senior Deputy Dailey is survived by two sons, Bryan, 20, and Tyler, 17. Their father was divorced many years ago from the sons' mother, who remarried, and both sons were living with their father at the time of his death, according to Del. Rick Impallaria, the Harford delegation chairman. Impallaria knew the senior Dailey from their days as students at Joppatowne High and is a close friend of the late deputy's brother-in-law. Tyler Dailey is a high school senior, and both sons, as was their father, are active in the Joppa-Magnolia Volunteer Fire Company.
Impallaria said he had HB-1581 drafted when he realized the two Dailey sons would receive hardly anything in the way of death benefit payments from Maryland's Law Enforcement Officers' Pension System under its current rules, which are codified in state law. Before introducing the bill, he caucused briefly with the other seven Harford delegates, whom he said all agreed to sponsor it as a group.
"These sons were dependent on their father, who was taken away from them," he said Wednesday. "They lived in his house. Under the current law, Tyler would receive about three months [of death benefits from the state system], Bryan wouldn't get anything. I felt this wasn't right under these circumstances."
The legislation would apply to any children of a parent, if there is not a surviving spouse, who died in the line of duty, retroactive to Feb. 1, 2016. Impallaria said he is confident the retroactive provision will pass legal muster. The cutoff at 26 years of age was selected, he said, because most health insurance plans allow dependent children to be on their parents' plan until they turn 26.
Under the current law, if there is no surviving spouse, the children of an officer who dies in the line of duty are entitled to a benefit of two-thirds of the officer's average final compensation, divided equally among the children, and payable monthly. When each child reaches 18, his or her payments stop. The law also provides for payments to children, if the officer's spouse dies before the youngest reaches 18.
Dean Kenderdine, the state retirement and pension system's executive director, said the system's board of trustees was made aware HB-1581 was going to be introduced when the trustees held their regular monthly meeting on Feb. 16.
Kenderdine said the pension board does not take a position on legislation that affects the benefits structure of the system, unless it presents administrative challenges to the agency.
Prior to requesting that the bill be drafted, Impallaria said he discussed the situation with one of the senior staff at the Sheriff's Office, where Impallaria's brother, Tim, is a deputy. He said he has not discussed the legislation with either Bryan or Tyler Dailey, nor had he said anything about it to the media prior to being interviewed by The Aegis.
"I didn't want to use this tragedy to be seen as promoting something I was doing; this is not what this is about," he said. "These boys don't have a dad any more. Others could be in similar situations in the future."
Both families are eligible for survivor death benefits from the federal and state governments.
The federal Department of Justice Public Safety Officers Benefits Program provides a one-time benefit of $333,604 to the family of a law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, www.odmp.org. The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Corrections provides a Maryland State Death Benefit Payment of $128,500, according to the same website.
Aegis editor Erika Butler contributed to this report.
This story has been updated to reflect a clarification that the state pension board does not take positions on legislation affecting the benefits structure of the pension system.