Arizona voters to decide on boosting line-of-duty death payout

Bob Christie
Arizona Daily Star
March 8, 2023

PHOENIX — Arizona voters will get to decide next year whether the state should levy a new $20 fine on each criminal conviction in order to pay an extra $250,000 to the families of police officers, firefighters, EMTs and corrections officers killed on the job because of a criminal act.

The voter referral that received final approval in the state Legislature this week will add to the considerable sum the families of fallen officers already receive from the federal government, state pension plan and individual agencies that provide life insurance to their members. It will also increase the amount people convicted of criminal offenses already pay in surcharges and fees tacked on top of any fine or penalties a judge may impose as part of a sentence.

The measure also boosts criminal penalties for assaulting a first responder.

Advocates who testified in support of the measure they called the “Back the Blue Act’’ said it was needed to help recruit new police officers and show that the public supports first responders.

“We have reached a point where it is essentially impossible for us to recruit the numbers of officers necessary to provide for basic public safety needs,’’ Sam Stone, chief of staff to Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio, told a Senate committee that considered the measure. “And it is now incumbent on our elected officials at every level to take the steps necessary to demonstrate first and foremost to our officers and potential applicants, that they are wanted and needed, welcomed in our cities and towns and counties.’’

Republican Sen. David Gowan, who sponsored the measure, SCR1006, noted that about four first responders die each year in Arizona as a result of a criminal act.

“That $250,000 can go a long way to helping our families of those victims of crime, certainly when there are police officers and first responders who have sworn to defend and protect us,’’ said the Sierra Vista senator.