Bill for tag to honor fallen police officers awaits a vote
by Madasyn Czebiniak
Rep. Randy Wood’s latest bill to sell specially made license plates won’t generate all of the funding needed for a State Law Enforcement Memorial, but it will help.

Wood’s bill, House Bill 629, which he referred to as the Fallen Officer Tag Bill, will donate all of the profits made from the sales to help build a that memorial in Anniston’s Centennial Park.

“It’s a way that we can honor fallen police officers. What this does, the money it brings in, it will make money for the state but also make money for memorial park here in Anniston,” said Wood, R-Saks.

The bill passed the House 95-0 in April, and was approved by a Senate committee 6-0 on May 9.

According to Wood the tags will be different from those for working police because anyone who wants to honor a fallen officer or soldier will be able to buy them, not just active duty or retired policemen.

“We want anyone to be able to honor the policemen who want to. And to show policemen we appreciate them,” he said.

Ken Rollins, who serves as second vice president of the Alabama State Officers and vice chairman of the state board of veterans affairs, is in charge of raising money for the expansion.

“This is the first effort I’ve seen that anybody has undertaken,” he said. “The city of Oxford has donated money from their police fund and the city of Anniston, but it’s not nearly enough to get the bulldozers started.”

Their hope is to build three other memorials in the park along with the state law enforcement memorial; one for firefighters and two for Afghanistan and Iraq soldiers, Rollins said. They currently have about $13,000.

“We’ve got a long way to go. This is one of the answers. This is the way to get ’er done,” Rollins said.

Rollins said that if the bill passes, most of the money generated from the license plates will go towards the new state law enforcement memorial, but not all. Some will be donated to the national law enforcement memorial, he said.

Wood said he doesn’t have an exact figure on how much the new license plates will bring in.

“Building the memorial is one thing, but the funds would also go to adding names to the wall in a timely matter,” Rollins said.

Rollins hopes that eventually every state law enforcement official will be honored in the right way.

“They would have their funeral services in their hometown and then they would have a statewide memorial service here in Anniston. If a family needed assistance that would be taken care of by the funds. We would make sure the family has a way to get here and back,” he said.

According to The Officer Down memorial page there have been 21,465 known line-of-duty deaths in America since 1791. There have been 510 line-of-duty deaths in Alabama; 291 have been by gunfire.

Justin Sollohub of the Anniston Police Department was one of fallen. Two years ago, while pursuing a suspect on foot, Sollohub was shot; he died soon after in a Birmingham hospital.

Sollohub’s sister, Bethany Sollohub-Harbin, said she would be more than willing to purchase a tag to honor her brother and help build the memorials.

“I think it’s an awesome gesture of love and peace. It would be a continuation of those who have been lost and those who are gone,” she said. His father, David Sollohub, said that anything done in memory of Justin makes him beam with pride.

HB629 is set for discussion in the Senate first thing Monday, the last day of the legislative session. Wood said he doesn’t know what to expect.
© 2013