State Sen. Anthony M. Bucco introduced legislation to extend benefits to New Jersey State Trooper recruits after the accidental death of a Morris County resident last year.
The proposed law addresses concerns related to the recent death of Lucas C. Homeijer, a 27-year-old Boonton native, who succumbed to injuries sustained as a recruit during a training exercise at the New Jersey State Police Academy in Sea Girt in December 2020.
“This young man died a hero while training to become a State Trooper who would protect and serve New Jersey families,” said Bucco (R-25). “His intention was to serve, just like his father and uncle before him, and we should honor his sacrifice in that pursuit even though his dream was never fully realized.”
Under Bucco’s new legislation, the death of a State Police recruit that results from training at the academy would be classified as a line-of-duty loss, and a surviving spouse would be paid an accidental death benefit of at least $50,000 annually.
If there is no surviving spouse, a final compensation of not less than $50,000 shall be used to calculate the death benefit to the surviving child or surviving parent. If there is no surviving spouse or in case the spouse dies, 70% of final compensation shall be payable to the surviving child or surviving children in equal shares.
If there is no surviving spouse or child, 25% of final compensation shall be payable to one surviving parent or 40% of final compensation shall be payable to two surviving parents in equal shares.
Under current law, State Police recruits are not sworn in as Troopers until they complete their training and graduate from the Academy. As a result, deaths that occur during training are not currently considered to have happened in the line of duty.
This measure aligns with a recently signed law that set a $50,000 minimum accidental death benefit for the surviving spouses of active police and firefighters in the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System (PFRS) who died in the line of duty.
Survivors of State Police recruits who died prior to the enactment of the legislation will have 12 months from the time the measure is signed into law to apply for retroactive death benefits.
“I’m glad to have worked with the State Troopers Fraternal Association to develop a bill that will provide the survivors of fallen recruits, including the Homeijer family, with the benefits and recognition they deserve,” said Bucco.
Bucco credited Wayne Blanchard, President of the State Troopers Fraternal Association, with help in developing the legislation.
“This legislation will ensure protections and support that are not currently in place, for those wishing to embark on a career in the New Jersey State Police and their families who sacrifice just as much as the recruits during the academy training process,” said Blanchard.