What happens to families of fallen police officers? - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

What happens to families of fallen police officers?

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SOUTH BEND -

 Kathy Karczewski's son, corporal Scott Severns, was killed eight years ago. He was shot off duty while trying to stop a robbery in South Bend.

"It's devastating. It was devastating when you get that knock on the door and you see the sirens and squad car in your driveway," Karczewski said.

A year and a day later, Corporal Nick Polizzotto, also a South Bend officer, was shot while investigating a report of gun fire. Both families say they felt well supported by the South Bend P-D after the death of their sons, particularly during the funerals.

"[The Police Department] made the arrangements and of course we we were part of it, but they did everything," Nick's Mother, Rosemary, said. 

When an Officer is killed in the line of duty it can be very hard on a family emotionally, but, at the same time, for some families, there can also be a large financial burden.

 "When Tom was killed it was '74 and they didn't have any monetary support or anything so we had nothing. I had to go back to work because I didn't have anything," DeRue-Nemeth said.

 But things have changed since Pat DeRue-Nemeth's husband, Corporal Tom DeRue died in the line of duty. The state of Indiana now gives families a one time payment for funeral costs and free tuition for children at a state school. The Federal Government steps in with $330,000 dollars in benefits.

"It allows them to take some of that financial stress off the family so they can focus on working through their grief and not having to worry so much about how they're going to pay the bills from week to week," said Diane Bernhard, the Executive Director of Concerns of Police Survivors (COPS).

All four South Bend survivors agree it could never help them forget the trauma of losing their loved ones. At first they say support pours in, but over the years it fades.

"His spirit is always here. I have a butterfly, little angel on my shoulder all the time-that he's there," Kathy Karczewski said.

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