If you’d like to support cops in meaningful ways, you’ve landed in the right place.
It can be overwhelming not knowing how to help or where to start, especially if you have little guidance. Been there.
The techniques I’ll discuss here and in upcoming issues are based on actual experience and legwork. No worries, I’m not just going to throw out a bunch of random ideas that may or may not work.
Before I begin, though, would you do me a big favor and follow For the Blue on Twitter? And if you like what you’re reading here, please consider subscribing (it’s completely free!) and sharing with others. (Signup and sharing info is below.) It would be greatly appreciated!
Now with that out of the way, let’s get to work.
The first citizen advocate idea I’d like to share in my #stoptalkingstartdoing series is the creation of a license plate program in your state to benefit the families of fallen officers.
What’s a Law Enforcement License Plate Program?
When police officers fall in the line of duty, their families are grappling with financial strain along with stifling grief. Though they usually receive death benefits through their place of employment, those can take time.
Funds generated by a law enforcement license plate program helps fill that gap.
In our case, we worked with the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Memorial (WLEM) which is a chapter of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund(NLEOMF), an organization that in large part, works to honor our fallen heroes.
Every time someone purchases a $25 Wisconsin law enforcement plate through the state’s Department of Transportation, the money goes into a fund administered by the WLEM, and ultimately benefits the families of officers killed in the line of duty. It also helps defray maintenance costs for the Law Enforcement Memorial at the State Capitol in Madison.
How to Create a Similar Program in Your State
While rules for license plate programs can vary by state, and your path may look very different than ours, here are some very general steps you can take to adopt a law enforcement license plate program in your own state.
Step 1: Find out if your there’s a law enforcement license plate program in your state.
You can easily find this out by checking your state’s department of transportation website.
If there are no law enforcement plate programs in your state:
Step 2: Contact the NLEOMF chapter in your state
Explain that you’re a citizen who cares about police officers and that you’d like to help establish a license plate fund for your state. There might be some resistance; cops, in my experience, are not ones to readily accept help.
If they agree, set up a time to talk by phone, webcam, or in-person to discuss plans going forward.
Depending on your discussion, your path going forward might look like this:
Step 3: Find out the requirements in your state
In Wisconsin, we had the option of paying thousands of dollars to implement a state license plate program or to work through the state legislature to create a law.
We opted for passing a law.
Step 4: Find a state representative willing to sponsor the bill
You can always start with your own representative and work from there. Another option is to contact the representative from the district where the law enforcement memorial organization is located in your state. In our case, we ended up working with the state rep from Green Bay, the city where the WLEM is administered (though the actual Memorial is in Madison). If they can’t be a sponsor, ask for suggestions on other potential legislators.
Step 5: Work closely with your chosen representative and the law enforcement memorial staff
Once you’ve found a rep willing to sponsor legislation and everyone is on board, you can start drafting a bill. The police organization will likely handle the paperwork required by your department of transportation. You just need to focus on the legislative aspects.
But that’s only half the battle.
What to Expect on Your Journey
Real life rarely turns out as expected, and outlines are merely guides. Here are a few things to keep in mind before committing to this project.
It’ll take a commitment of time and work
It takes legwork to find key people, including legislators willing to work with you. There’s also a commitment of time. You need to be willing to attend public hearings, testify in front of your legislature, do research, meet with key people, promote the legislation, write op-eds explaining the bill, and be willing to give interviews to the media.
It requires patience and tenacity
Getting our license plate bill passed took about two years from start to finish. There were also twists and turns along the way: Committees get stalled, hearings get cancelled, loose ends surface.
The Benefits of Creating This Type of Legislation
You do the hard work just once
Though this project will require your time and dedication, once the bill does become law, your role is essentially done. Unless, of course, you’d like to help promote the plates or help in other ways.
It generates substantial money for law enforcement
The WLEM plate raised more than $17 thousand in its first six months alone. This is passive money that increases annually as more people become aware of the program.
Another bonus: By being instrumental in passing this law, you’ll also be helping the police officers who volunteer their time. They’ll no longer have to spend as much of their free weekends holding grill-outs and other events to raise funds.
It shows police officers that you support them
At a time when law enforcement is under attack, a law enforcement license plate is a tangible way to show cops that you appreciate them.
Sure, you can slap a sticker on your car, but a license plate is much more meaningful.
You’ll feel amazing
Imagine standing behind the governor as the bill you helped create is signed into law. I can tell you from experience that doing things that make an actual difference for our guardians beats the heck out of bemoaning the problem.
Complaining about a problem -especially on social media- is essentially a waste of time unless those thoughts are backed up with meaningful action. Creating a law enforcement license plate program is a tangible way for you to make a difference for the people who have our backs every day of the week. It’s hard work, but I have confidence that you can do it.
We are appreciative of our partnership with For The Blue. This article originally appeared here.