Law enforcement officers believe they have each others' backs while they risk their lives trying to protect the public.
Now, the 100 Club of East Texas is seeking financial backing from business people and the public through membership fees to help the families of law enforcement officers who have been injured or killed during the line of duty.
The club, which serves Gregg, Harrison, Rusk, Upshur, Panola and 15 other counties in East Texas, has raised $10,000 and hopes to raise $1 million in a year, Mount Pleasant Police Chief Wayne Isbell said during a news conference Thursday outside the Kilgore Police Department headquarters.
The club is seeking annual or lifetime memberships, said Isbell, its outgoing president. Memberships cost $100 and $150 a year, or $1,000 and $1,500 one-time fees.
Isbell presided over the news conference to kick off public awareness — and more fundraising — a year and a half after regional civic and business leaders established the club. A 501©(3) nonprofit foundation, the 100 Club takes its name from a group founded more than 50 years ago in Houston.
Isbell, who was surrounded by more than 40 sheriffs and police chiefs, acknowledged no area law enforcement officers have died in recent memory while in the line of duty.
The most recent fatality in Gregg County occurred Sept. 30, 2016, with the death of Sheriff’s Cpl. Robert Ransom from a heart attack while responding to a medical emergency involving an inmate, according to the club’s website.
However, Isbell said afterward, a tragedy involving law enforcement could happen any day.
“You could have a mass shooting,” he said.
Isbell cited statistics from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund claiming more law enforcement officers died in the United States in the line of duty in 2018 at 148 than in 2017, reversing a one-year decline. He added Texas is one of four states leading in the number of officer deaths with 11 fallen officers.
Isbell drew support from other law enforcement officials and civic leaders who attended the news conference.
“I think it is a good organization to have, a foundation created to support law enforcement,” Longview Police Chief Mike Bishop said. “We hear what is going on across the nation (involving officer fatalities), and it’s good to have this organization in the unfortunate event that we experience a line-of-duty death.”
Bishop said the club could meet the immediate needs of families.
Concurring, Gregg County Sheriff Maxey Cerliano said, “This is another resource that is available to assist law enforcement officers and their families.”
He said the loss of life is devastating, not only to the families, but to their communities.
The club will perform a “really important function,” Kilgore Mayor Ronnie Spradlin said. He said he has been invited to serve on the 100 Club’s board.
The board consists of 11 civilians who include chamber of commerce members, business owners and political leaders, Isbell said.
Jill McCartney, president and CEO of the Kilgore Chamber of Commerce, said she is excited about local law enforcement agencies coming together to support each other.
She added she did not see that kind of support during the nearly 50 years she lived in Ohio.
The 100 Club will rely on memberships made through its website at easttexas100club.org and will not make phone solicitations, Isbell said.