National Police Week has closed, but local officers are hoping residents will continue showing support for first responders who have given their lives throughout the state.
The Santa Monica Police Officers Association’s Charity Fund, also known as the Survivor’s Fund, was created after the death of Santa Monica Police Department Officer Ricardo Crocker, who died while on active duty in Iraq in 2005.
“We didn’t have the means or the ways to assist his family with his funeral expenses,” Sgt. Chad Goodwin said in an interview this week. “And since he was from Puerto Rico, there was a lot of trying to get family here and a question of was it legal or okay for the police department to do it all within like a gift and all these tax purposes and things that we have to abide by within the union that made it difficult.
With so many hoops to jump through, Goodwin said SMPOA figured it best to create the charity fund so if anything happened in the future, officers could receive a lump sum of money that could be spent on anything family members needed to get by.
Following the deaths of two officers this week in San Luis Obispo and Stockton, the Survivor Fund has helped a little more than half a dozen officers throughout California. Last year, it made nearly 20 payments to US Customs & Border Protection agents, sheriff’s deputies and others who had their watch end.
“We’ve given them $1,000 each. That’s what we’re setting now but as the charity grows and our bank account gets bigger, we want to ultimately increase what we give,” Goodwin said. “The main purpose of that is because, well there’s several reasons; we don’t know everyone’s financial situation — if they’re without life insurance or what their personal finances are life, so this money is to just help with immediate expenses that come along with what occurs at the time of death like funeral expenses, medical expenses or just paying your rent, mortgage and light bill.”
Federal or state benefits can oftentimes those things take three months to a year to come in, if not longer, Goodwin said. “So, this money we give is to try to bridge that gap and help pay expenses that come along with these types of incidents.”
When Officer Rashad Riley died in 2019, the charity donated $25,000 to his family. Fellow Officer Derek David Morton received a smaller donation back in 2010 when he died of cancer.
“Because the charity was much smaller then. But as the funds have grown, we have increased the benefits,” Goodwin said, “and we want to keep increasing the benefit because we want to be able to give as much as we can to our own people as well as officers outside our own agency. But we have to have a cushion in the bank in the event of some major incident… We can have something major like a terrorist attack, mass shooting or who knows what can happen, and five (officers) could die at one time. We have to have money in reserve in case of a major incident like that.”
Most donations from outside of the police department are completed through PayPal, which can be accessed through the Survivor’s Fund website at smpoacharityfund.org.
“We also are trying to get 100% participation of our own police department and get all the officers to donate something out of their own paychecks, which most of them do. We got about an 85% compliance rate,” Goodwin said. “We can’t make them do it, obviously, but it’s for their own benefit and their own brothers’ and sisters’ benefit so if you can donate five or 10 bucks a month — anything you can do.”
And the same message rings true for local residents and businesses as well, Goodwin added. “We accept cash gift cards to your restaurant or products that we can auction, hotel stays or anything like that. We’ve accepted all different forms of donations from the community, which we’ve been used to generate money. Anything you can do is appreciated, and it’ll be for a good cause, well, it’s going to go towards charity.”