By DEUCE NIVEN
Nearly $1 million has been sent to survivors of nine public safety officers murdered in the line of duty as a part of “Conner’s Law,” legislation that honors slain NC Highway Patrol Master Trooper Kevin Conner.
State Treasurer Dale R. Folwell, CPA, and the Retirement Systems Division (RSD) announced the distribution Tuesday, noting that the payments were authorized as part of the law passed by the state General Assembly in 2019, and funded in House Bill 425 this year.
Funding was effective on July 1, and retroactive to July 1, 2016.
“This retroactivity provision includes the families of the corrections officers who were murdered by inmates on Oct. 12, 2017, at Pasquotank Correctional Institution during the deadliest prison escape attempt in the state’s history,” a news release from Folwell’s office said.
State Rep. Brenden Jones of Tabor City and state Sen. Danny Britt of Lumberton, both with districts that include Columbus County, were lead sponsors of the original Conner’s Law legislation and secured unanimous bipartisan votes in both chambers.
Trooper Conner was murdered during a traffic stop south of Whiteville in October 2018. Conner’s Law provides a supplemental payment to families of public safety officers murdered in the line of duty, and “increased the criminal penalty for assaulting a law enforcement officer, probation officer, parole officer, or emergency personnel with a firearm or other weapon,” the news release said.
“Kevin was a dear friend for many years,” Jones and Britt said in a joint statement. “We are glad we could not only honor his legacy, but also provide meaningful funds to help other families who suffered such a tragic loss.
“We want them to know that their loved ones will never be forgotten. The state of North Carolina will always honor their memories and stand by our Corrections and law enforcement employees.”
Payments were made by RSD as part of its ongoing responsibilities to administer line-of-duty death benefits, retirement, and disability programs for more than 35,000 public safety workers actively employed by the state and local governments in North Carolina and more than 15,000 volunteer firefighters and rescue squad workers.
“As a former legislator, I acknowledge the thought that in a perfect world laws like this wouldn’t be necessary,” Treasurer Folwell said. “Those that teach, protect and otherwise serve don’t call the Treasurer’s Office to book a cruise. They call because of life-changing events. Most are blessings. These are not.
“No song, smell or other sense will ever be the same for these victims’ families, friends and communities.”
The North Carolina Retirement Systems is the ninth-largest public pension fund in the country and is currently valued at more than $107 billion. It provides retirement benefits and savings for more than 950,000 North Carolinians, including teachers, state employees, local governments, firefighters, police officers and other public workers.