Police chiefs ask public to stand behind families of area officers

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Representatives of law enforcement agencies from 20 East Texas counties gathered in Kilgore Sunday to declare their support for the East Texas 100 Club and to encourage citizens to donate to the foundation.

By raising money from community members, business owners and civic leaders, the club aims to support the spouses and dependents of officers killed or catastrophically injured in the line of duty.

Mt. Pleasant Chief of Police Wayne Isbell addressed the media and the community at the press conference, pointing out a need among East Texas law enforcement agencies for more support and financial assistance.

“Law enforcement in East Texas has fought hard to improve how we police. Unfortunately, we don’t always get the support we need from our community and our governing body,” Isbell said, citing statistics indicating 148 more law enforcement officers died in the U.S. in 2018 than in 2017, reversing a one-year decline.

“Texas was one of four states leading the number of officer’s deaths, with 11 fallen officers,” Isbell said.

Isbell added the 100 Club was created in 2017 by a group of civic and business leaders. He called on the community to show their support for local law enforcement by paying an annual or lifetime membership fee. Those who do will be recognized on the club’s website and will receive a window sticker denoting their membership status.

The 20 counties covered by the club are Anderson, Camp, Cass, Cherokee, Delta, Franklin, Gregg, Harrison, Henderson, Hopkins, Marion, Morris, Panola, Rains, Red River, Rusk, Smith, Titus, Upshur and Wood.

Following his statement, Isbell fielded questions from the media. He said there had been no recent law enforcement line-of-duty deaths spurring the creation of the club but over 100 officers had been killed in these 20 counties going back to the 1800s. He added the organization had no plans to solicit donations over the phone but has already been receiving financial support for individuals both in the East Texas region and beyond. In the future, the club could also allocate funds for additional officer training and equipment not covered by governmental budget funds.

Isbell said families of slain or injured law enforcement officers can be greatly affected by the loss not only emotionally, but also financially, as many officers support spouses and their children. Money paid by the club could help them get through difficult times while still taking care of expenses, he said.

Some other 100 Clubs in Texas have expanded their coverage beyond law enforcement officers to the families of other first responders and public safety officers killed or injured on the job. Isbell said the East Texas club is still growing and does not currently offer the same coverage but hopes to do so in the future.

“There are huge opportunities for us here as law enforcement to help family members when someone is catastrophically injured or dies in the line of duty. We have to build those funds and nearly 100 percent of all money that is brought in, except for a small fraction for administrative costs, will go to supporting these families and supporting law enforcement here in East Texas,” Isbell said.

Currently, the club offers membership to donors in installments of $100 or $150 billed yearly for members and corporate members, respectively. Lifetime memberships are available for $1000 or $1500 for corporate memberships. Isbell said, in the future, options for smaller donation amounts may be made available for those who cannot donate at the $100 amount or higher.

Learn more at www.EastTexas100Club.org.

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