Significant benefits for families of cops killed in line of duty

Lt. Charles "Joe" Gliniewicz had a lot riding on putting his death over as a line-of-duty killing.

The surviving family of a police officer killed in the line of duty in Illinois is usually entitled to a pension worth 100 percent of his salary, $600,000 in federal and state death benefits, free health insurance and free in-state college for his children.

But Wednesday's announcement by investigators that Gliniewicz killed himself most likely will change that for his surviving family, a police pension expert says.

"It's a game changer in a number of respects," said Richard Reimer, a Hinsdale attorney who specializes in police pension law. "Unfortunately for the family, what they would have been looking at had Lt. Gliniewicz been killed in the line of duty is a number of enhanced benefits."

Fox Lake police pension board President Fred Loffredo said Wednesday the board has not gotten an official request for pension benefits from Gliniewicz's widow.

Surviving spouses of Illinois police officers killed in the line of duty are eligible for 100 percent of the officer's salary at the time of death. Families of active officers whose deaths are not considered "line of duty" get less - spouses receive at least 50 percent of the officer's salary, up to 75 percent.

In Gliniewicz's case, as he died at age 52 with 30 years of police service, his wife would be eligible to receive 75 percent, said Reimer, who is legal counsel to 200 police and fire pension boards in Illinois.

"Because it was a suicide, she would not be entitled to the 100 percent line-of-duty surviving spouse benefit," said Reimer, but, "I don't think there's a question she's entitled to 75 percent.

"The only thing that takes away a police officer's right to a pension is conviction for a job-related felony," Reimer said. "He wasn't convicted of anything. He doesn't lose any rights. He's deceased. His pension rights would pass to her."

The decision of how much of a pension to award Gliniewicz's family is up to the Fox Lake police pension board, a five-member panel that administers pension funds for the village's 27 officers and 10 others retired or on disability.

Under normal circumstances, Loffredo agreed Gliniewicz's wife would receive 75 percent of Gliniewicz's salary. However, the board attorney is researching state law about whether she could receive more, and if the death can be classed as "in the line of duty."

"I can't give a legal interpretation," Loffredo said. "That's for the legal beagles to interpret. My feeling is we can't do much about anything until we have the paperwork. Then we can start ruling on it."

The board could hold a formal hearing, open to the public, to consider evidence, such as Gliniewicz's death certificate.

Board attorney Laura Goodloe said Wednesday night she would issue a statement on behalf of the police pension board on Thursday.

Beyond a pension, surviving spouses of officers killed in the line of duty are entitled to federal and state lump sum payments of $300,000 each. The state benefit is administered through the Illinois Court of Claims, and the federal benefit through the Justice Department.

Reimer said it's doubtful Gliniewicz's wife would qualify for that. "It can't be the result of intentional misconduct of a public safety officer," he said.

Illinois law also provides for spouses of officers killed in the line of duty to get free health insurance coverage until they are eligible for Medicare, and the officer's children can get free college tuition at a state public university until age 26, Reimer said.

It's up to Fox Lake village officials whether to award those extra benefits, though they must allow Gliniewicz's widow to remain on the village's health insurance plan until she reaches Medicare eligibility age, Reimer said.

5 key pieces of evidence that point to Fox Lake officer suicide

Fox Lake residents react to Gliniewicz news with mixed emotions

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.