Massachusetts law bars wounded police officer from receiving donations

Donald DeMiranda was injured July 27.
Caption
Donald DeMiranda was injured July 27.

Credit: Falmouth Police Department

Credit: Falmouth Police Department

An outpouring of support for a Massachusetts police officer wounded in the line of duty have been roadblocked by a state law that donors did not know about.

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More than $12,000 have been raised to help Falmouth police Officer Donald DeMiranda in his ongoing recovery, but all the money had to be returned to those who wanted to contribute.

On July 27, DeMiranda, along with Falmouth Officer Ryan Moore, responded to a report of public disturbance where a man was seen breaking bottles on the street.

The suspect began shooting at DeMiranda and Moore, injuring both of them as well as a third officer.

None of the injuries sustained were life-threatening, but DeMiranda suffered more serious and complicated issues and he is still recovering months after the incident.

In an effort to help the Falmouth native, a GoFundMe page was launched and raked in $12,692 in donations for DeMiranda and his family.

However, police Chief Edward Dunne said DeMiranda decided to return all of the money donated to him and his family after he learned the financial support from his community violates the state's conflict of interest law.

“You’re talking about a kid who was born and raised here and went into a situation in his hometown," said Jennifer Hinds, a former high school classmate of DeMiranda and was among those who donated.

On top of all these gestures from a community who came together to help those who protect and serve them, 9-year-old Joe Ledwick set up a lemonade stand and raised $1,600 for both wounded officers.

Massachusetts law, however, prohibits any of these donations to reach the officers. In part, the law “prohibits a public employee from requesting or receiving anything of substantial value for or because of an official act or an act within the public employee’s official responsibility.”

The law, which applies to all state, county and municipal employees, defines gifts of substantial value as $50 or more.

Hinds said she doesn't agree with the conflict of interest law, arguing the donations would not only help him but also his family.

"Police officers make most of their money from details and overtime, even though his base pay, (which) he’s still receiving, more than 50 percent of his pay is gone until he can get back," Hinds said. “I think a lot of people are saddened, it’s a two-family working household, they have kids (and) instead of being home and helping Donny recuperate, Kelly has got to go and work even more so she can make up the missing money they’re not receiving."

Dudley police Chief Steven Wojnar, president of the Massachusetts Police Chiefs Association, said he also doesn't agree with the law, saying in a statement:

“There should be some exceptions carved out in the law to provide these contributions to cover costs associated with the expenses incurred by these officers. The financial issues associated with things like lost work time and uncovered medical expenses can impact police officers the same as other people.”

While the town council in Falmouth checked with the state's ethics commissions to see if there was a loophole in the conflict of interest law that could make any exceptions for officers injured in the line of duty, they were told there is none.

Some of those who donated to DeMiranda are now giving the money to various nonprofit organizations.

As for the 9-year-old who raised money through his lemonade stand, he has now donated the funds to a Falmouth Police Support Fund.