In late January life for the Wride family changed forever.

Sgt. Cory Wride, with the Utah County Sheriff's Office, was fatally wounded while investigating what he thought was an abandoned vehicle on the side of State Route 73 in northern Utah County. He left behind a wife and five children while doing a job most people do not want any part of, but are grateful for those who do.

Wride's death has left the question of how much should the public -- for whom he worked to protect for nearly 20 years -- pay to his family for the sacrifice he made?

It is a question his widow, Nannette Wride, is asking herself as she faces the dilemma of having to return to full-time work. As a mother she wants to ensure her family has benefits such as health insurance, but feels she needs to be at home with her children to help them through the shock of losing their father.

"I have two kids that aren't doing well and I need to be here to be a mom and I can't, that is what is not right," Wride said.

She was informed in February that since her husband was no longer an employee of the county, his benefits would be discontinued at the end of that month unless she chose to pay the cost for the insurance herself. The insurance policy costs more than $1,000 per month.

That price tag has caused Wride to consider going full time at her job as a nurse so she can receive heath insurance at a better rate for her family. She also has a mountain of paperwork sitting on her kitchen counter to apply for aid that is available to assist her family, but cutting through the red tape to receive that aid seems insurmountable as Wride is dealing with a tragic loss. She is not exactly in a state of mind to deal with the government to get money.

"I'm exhausted," she said when asked about how she is handling how to move forward. "I'm looking at six straight days of 12-hour shifts."

Benefits

Wride isn't completely left out when it comes to funds to help her family in the years to come. According to Utah County officials, Wride is actually set up to receive at least $800,000 via one-time payouts. Some of that total comes from the county, while other portions come through insurance policies and federal grants available to families of fallen officers.

The money won't bring her husband or her children's father back, but Utah County is doing something to help.

According to the county, Wride will receive more than $24,000 per year, which is about 40 percent of her husband's annual salary, on a yearly basis.

The Wride family will also receive $22,500 annually due to retirement benefits. For six years the family also will be paid through a Workers Compensation Fund at a rate of $34,580 per year. Add it up, and for at least six years the family will receive more than $80,000 annually as a result of Cory Wride's death, on top of the aforementioned one-time payouts.

Utah County Commissioners have also said they are looking to pay for the Wride family to receive the county's health insurance plan through the end of the year to allow Wride to not have to go full time at her job for a period of time so she can be with her children.

"She's going to have insurance for her and her kids," said Commissioner Gary Anderson. "We'll take care of them. Period."

For how long is the question. The commission has said Wride will get the insurance paid for only through the end of the year, meaning come January, she will be looking at going back to work or finding a way to pay the insurance bill each month through other means.

County policy

There is no county policy in place to provide health benefits to a family of a fallen officer, but Wride has wondered if maybe something should be done to change that.

"I feel like this needs to be fixed," Wride said. "It is only a matter of time before something like this happens again."

Anderson told the Daily Herald the county should always take care of families who have had to deal with the tragic situation the Wrides are facing, but said a policy to put that in place couldn't be drafted.

Commissioner Doug Witney echoed Anderson's sentiment, stating a policy shouldn't be made for something as tragic as the loss of life. Witney said he is on board with making sure the county can provide the family's health insurance until the Wrides reach the point where they can stand on their own again.

With no policy in place, the decision of how to take care of each family of a fallen officer would be left up to each county administration to determine.

State law

Ian Adams, a spokesman with the Utah Chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, observed that Utah County was doing more to aid Wride than other departments across the state would do in similar situations. He said officers who work for smaller cities and counties would likely not receive the money the Wride family will, with that said he added that government could do more to take care of these families.

Adams said the state legislature should step forward and create a policy instead of leaving situations like this up to city and county leaders.

"The state should be there for the family of those officers and they are not currently doing that," Adams said.

State lawmakers are now looking into the issue. Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, said he is working on legislation for the 2015 general legislative session that would update Utah's code on how to take care of the families of fallen officers.

Ray, who said Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, will work with him on the issue, said the framework for the legislation would call for the family to receive six months of salary immediately upon the death of the officer. It also would call for the family to receive 65 percent of the officer's salary indefinitely, and provide health care to the family until the widow turns 65 and is eligible for Medicare.

"The problem is they haven't updated the code in many years for officer-involved fatalities," Ray said. "The benefits they are getting are decades old."

In addition to insurance payouts, the survivor salary, retirement payouts and other payouts, the Wride family also is entitled to additional benefits such as the Governor's Golden Shield Scholarship, which is a tuition waiver to any state school for the immediate family members of a fallen officer.

Other nonprofit grants are also available from organizations such as the National Rifle Association, which would pay out $25,000 to a family if it lost an officer in the line of duty and the officer was a member of the association.

billy-hesterman
-- Billy Hesterman covers the Utah State Legislature and local politics for the Daily Herald. You can connect with Billy by email at bhesterman@heraldextra.com or by

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