Amount of police survivor benefits uncertain

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It's unclear how much money the families of Pittsburgh's three slain police officers will receive in survivor benefits, according to police union officials. But the amount would have been significantly larger if the state Legislature had approved Senate Bill 1112 last year.

The bill, which never received a final vote before the end of the 2007-08 legislative session, required the state to cover the additional costs of a 100 percent salary death benefit for family members. It also gave a flat payment of $100,000 to a surviving spouse. If the officer had no spouse, then the officer's child or children would receive payments.

"If we had had a couple of more days, we think it would have passed," said Les Neri, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Pennsylvania State Lodge. "Had it passed, the widows and children of these officers would have been taken care of."

Two of the three officers shot to death in Stanton Heights on Saturday morning were married and had children. Officer Eric Kelly, 41, is survived by his wife, Marena, and three daughters, Tameka, 22, Autumn, 16, and Janelle, 11. Officer Stephen J. Mayhle, 29, is survived by his wife, Shandra, and two daughters, Jennifer, 6, and Brooklynn, 3.

Officer Paul J. Sciullo II, 37, was engaged.

Officials with Pittsburgh's local FOP branch, Fort Pitt Lodge No. 1, are still trying to determine how payments will work under city law.

The amounts vary based on service, said Dan O'Hara, local union president. Officer Kelly served 14 years with the city; officers Mayhle and Sciullo both served two years. The city will cover health benefits for spouses for three years after an officer's death, Mr. O'Hara said. Children receive benefits for five years or until they reach the age of 18.

Under current Pennsylvania law, the state continues to pay a family 100 percent of the salary of a deceased officer from a borough or township with at least three or more full-time officers. A spouse receives that money for life, and children receive it until they are 18, or 23 if they go to college.

But officers in the largest departments -- including Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and the state police -- all have different death benefit plans.

State Sen. Sean Logan, D-Monroeville, again is trying to extend the full state coverage to the larger departments, this time under Senate Bill 369, which was introduced in February and then referred to the Labor and Industry Committee.


Jerome L. Sherman can be reached at jsherman@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1183.


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