Wisconsin's chief law enforcement officer has sent a strongly worded condemnation of a national officers group's decision to reject an application for Wauwatosa Police Officer Jennifer Sebena's name to be inscribed on a Washington memorial wall.
Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, in a letter sent Wednesday to Craig W. Floyd, chairman and CEO of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, urged him and the Memorial Fund to reconsider and include Sebena.
Jen Sebena was shot to death on Christmas Eve morning outside Wauwatosa Fire Station No. 1 while on duty. Her husband, Benjamin Sebena, is charged with first-degree intentional homicide, with a trial scheduled to begin July 8.
WISN Channel 12 and Patch reported Tuesday night that the memorial organization had denied an application on Sebena's behalf. WISN's Christina Palladino reported that, according to a spokesman for the Memorial Fund, Sebena was rejected because her death came as a result of alleged domestic violence.
“I strongly disagree that Officer Sebena’s death was not in the line of duty," Van Hollen wrote. "I strongly disagree with any suggestion that a line of duty death cannot result from an incident of domestic violence.
"For these reasons, I also disagree with the decision not to include Officer Sebena on the Memorial.”
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett also wrote to Floyd urging a reversal of the ruling, saying, "She served our community without fear and without hesitation. Denying her this final honor would minimalize the significance of her contributions to our community."
"One of the inscriptions on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial," Barrett wrote, "is worth repeating here: 'It is not how these officers died that made them heroes. It is how they lived.'"
Wauwatosa Police Chief Barry Weber weighed in as well, saying, “I concur with the Attorney General and feel the decision should be re-evaluated and corrected to reflect Jennifer’s sacrifice.”
In his letter, Van Hollen politely but firmly dissects the Memorial Fund's own criteria for inclusion and quoting with a lawyer and law enforcement officer's eye, concludes that:
"Officer Sebena died in uniform, during her scheduled duty shift and while on patrol. Using the definitions adopted and promulgated by your organization, she died while performing her statutorily authorized duties, consistent with the terms and conditions of her employment. She died in the line of duty, 'as a direct and proximate result of a personal injury sustained in the line of duty.'"
Van Hollen goes on to point out the impression the Memorial Fund has created by denying Sebena her place:
"I do not believe that your organization intended, by its decision, to deprecate Officer Sebena's professional sacrifice. Nor do I believe that you intended to convey the impression that crimes related to domestic violence weigh less heavily in the community, or in the eyes of professional law enforcement officers.
"However, as your decision now stands, it does just that."
In conclusion, Van Hollen urges the Fund's board of directors to reconsider the decision Thursday at a scheduled review and reverse it.
"By doing so," Van Hollen writes, "you not only honor her, but also those who will appear with her on the Memorial."