The police shooting in Dallas last week is a stark reminder to brokers of the astounding lack of life insurance coverage among the nation’s law enforcement officers.
Five officers were slain and 12 shot during a lone gunman’s rampage during a Black Lives Matter protest in downtown Dallas Thursday night. The shooter, 25-year-old Micah Johnson, drove his car to the rally and began shooting officers before he was killed early Friday morning after failing to surrender.
He was unaffiliated with any group, officials say.
Those killed during the rampage include Lorne Ahrens, 48; Michael Krol, 40; Michael Smith, 55; Patrick Zamarripa, 32; and Brent Thompson, 43. Four of the five were members of the Dallas Police Department and joined the Dallas Police Association (DPA) – something of a union for members of the city police department that provides financial support to members. Through the DPA, the officers were offered life insurance through the Texas Police Trust for about $26 a month.
The fifth officer, Thompson, worked for Dallas Area Rapid Transit and was not qualified to join the association. He did have access to a defined contribution plan, however, and was given the option to purchase life insurance as well.
But only about half of the members of the DPA have policies, said account executive Taylor Jackson.
And that’s not an uncommon figure – industry research organization LIMRA has revealed a 50-year low in the ownership of individual life insurance policies in the US, and an estimated 30% of households have no coverage at all. Though no specific statistics on law enforcement officers exist, there is no reason to believe they are an exception, says Law Enforcement Life, an agency founded by a retired California Highway Patrol officer and dedicated solely to members of the law enforcement community.
Some, like former New York Police Department Lieutenant Keith Maresca, choose to forego coverage in favor of the police pension. Though tax-free, however, the pensions rarely provide financial freedom to recipients.
Others rely on small insurance policies from the US government and local credit unions rather than supplementing with a private policy. But this coverage is slim, often providing just one to four years of annual income in the event of the officer’s death.
With the base salary for a law enforcement officer averaging $50,000 nationwide, many families of officers may struggle without additional help from a private policy.
“For most LEOs, group life insurance is too risky to be the primary way to protect your loved ones,” said Law Enforcement Life.
“You are not in control of your own protection situation. Your employer is. They own and control the policy that protects you, or more correctly, protects your family. They can terminate the policy. They can change the policy. You have no control over the policy.”
There has been no word on whether the officers killed Thursday chose to take out a separate policy through Texas Police Trust. The DPA, however, delivered next-of-kin checks for roughly $100,000 on Friday and charitable assistance to be split among the five families continues to pour in.