Murdered Hero Lt. Debra Clayton’s Family Won’t Receive Benefits Other Florida Officers Get
Florida Cities Provide Lower Death Benefits, Lt. Debra Clayton’s Family Affected
Orlando, FL – The families of Orlando Police Lt. Debra Clayton and Orange County Deputy First Class Norman Lewis will receive vastly different benefits, although both died in an incident involving cop-killer and murderer Markeith Loyd.
According to The Orlando Sentinel, Lt. Debra Clayton’s family will only receive 60 percent of her annual salary. The family of DFC Norman Lewis will receive 100 percent of his salary. Why the difference? Lt. Clayton, who served 17 years with the Orlando Police Department, was vested in the city’s pension plan. Orange DFC Lewis , who served with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office since 2005, was vested in the state’s pension plan.
A Florida state law that was passed in 2016 allows the spouse or primary beneficiary of a fallen law enforcement officer to receive 100 percent of his or her state pension benefits. The new law only applies to those officers who are vested in the state, which typically include sheriff’s office deputies. It does not apply to municipal police officers, who are typically vested into their city’s chosen pension plan.
Both Orlando Police Lt. Debra Clayton and Orange County DFC Norman Lewis were killed on January 9, 2017. Lt. Clayton was shot and killed by wanted fugitive Markeith Loyd after a confrontation at the Walmart. DFC Lewis was killed in a traffic collision while looking for Loyd.
Lt. Debra Clayton’s sister Rayshawn Shackelford, who is not her named beneficiary, said that she thought the city of Orlando should make up the 40 percent difference. She said that “the city should do anything it can to help the family.” While Orlando may not be granting 100% benefits, the city did posthumously promote the fallen hero from the rank of Master Sergeant to Lieutenant, and presumably the associated pay increase would be taken into account before benefits are calculated.
Matt Puckett, executive director of the Florida Police Benevolent Association (PBA), said that his organization tried to have the new law apply to city pensions as well. He said that the attempt was unsuccessful because of the League of Cities, an organization of the state’s cities and municipalities. Puckett said “I think it is unfair. I understand where League of Cities is coming from, but it’s really easy to state your position when you aren’t talking to a family member of a fallen officer.”
Last year’s law that was passed is known as the Scott Pine Bill. It was named for Orange County Deputy Scott Pine, who was killed in the line of duty in 2014. When he was killed, there was very little money left for his wife and three young children. The new law allows them to receive his full salary of $40,000 for the rest of his wife’s life.
The bill’s sponsor, former State Senator Jeremy Ring, said that the bill was never intended to address officers who have city pensions because they are under collective bargaining at the local level. He said that he advocated for the bill because it was the right thing to do but to extend it to city police officers is beyond the scope of the Legislature.
The families of any officer that is killed while on the job can apply for federal and state benefits, including a one-time $340,000 payment from the federal Public Safety Officers’ Benefit Act. State benefits vary according to the state, but the state of Florida allows a one-time state benefit of $150,000 for the family of any officer killed in the line of duty.
Our thoughts and prayers continue for the families, both blood and blue, of fallen hero Orlando Police Lt. Debra Clayton and Orange County Deputy First Class Norman Lewis.
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