Decision on whether to include slain officer’s name on memorial delayed

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WAUWATOSA (WITI) -- It was announced on Thursday, March 21st that a decision regarding whether to include slain Wauwatosa Police Officer Jennifer Sebena's name on a national memorial for fallen officers in Washington, D.C. until 2014. This means Officer Sebena's name will not be placed on the memorial this year -- and whether her name will be included at all is still to be determined.

The National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund's Board of Directors released the following statement Thursday:

“Our Board of Directors met today and decided to reconsider an earlier determination by our Names Committee not to include Wauwatosa (WI) Police Officer Jennifer Sebena on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.

We are very sensitive to the unique circumstances of this case and believe that further research and review is warranted.  The Memorial Fund will continue to examine and investigate this case in the coming months, and will be reaching out to the Wauwatosa Police Department for further information and assistance.

A final decision will be made on Officer Sebena’s case no later than early 2014.  We regret the delay, but want to make sure that our Board of Directors makes a fully informed and correct decision.” 

Officer Sebena was gunned down by her husband, Benjamin Sebena while she was on duty on Christmas Eve. Some expressed outrage after a national organization initially said it would refuse to recognize Jennifer Sebena on a national memorial for fallen officers.

Officials in Washington said the reason for the rejection is because, though Sebena was gunned down while on duty, her killing was a result of domestic violence.

Sebena was shot several times as she left the Wauwatosa Fire Department early Christmas Eve -- her own service weapon used to kill her.

On Thursday, the Wisconsin Professional Police Association responded to the decision to delay the final decision regarding whether Sebena's name will be featured on the memorial  until 2014.

In a statement, the WPPA said, in part: "Upon hearing that Sebena was not going to be included on the national memorial dedicated to honoring officers who die while on duty, law enforcement officers from around Wisconsin began contacting the WPPA, the state’s largest group, to express their outrage. 

“The national police memorial’s action to further delay a final decision on the Jennifer Sebena controversy will do nothing to quell the anger that our state’s officers feel about the disrespect the memorial has shown her. While we are somewhat pleased that the memorial board didn’t confirm its rejection of Jennifer, Wisconsin’s law enforcement community will not rest until Jennifer Sebena is given the honor that her service and sacrifice demands," WPPA Executive Director Jim Palmer said.

According to Palmer, Sebena’s death clearly meets the memorial’s criteria for inclusion on its walls.  It has not been uncommon for the memorial to include the names of officers who, for example, have suffered heart attacks while on duty. 

“Engraved into the National Law Enforcement Memorial’s walls are the words ‘It is not how these officers died that made them heroes, it is how they lived.’  The board’s failure today to honor Jennifer Sebena on the sole basis of who killed her contradicts everything that the memorial should stand for.  Worse than that, this decision allows Jennifer Sebena’s husband to further victimize her and desecrate her service to the community," Palmer said.

Palmer announced the WPPA’s intention to reach out to the White House for support, and to continue to urge officers across the state to speak out on this issue." 

Gov. Scott Walker on Thursday issued a letter he has drafted to the national Officers Memorial Fund.

The letter reads: "I appreciate your willingness to consider our request to list Officer Sebena's name on the memorial wall.

As I mentioned, Officer Sebena's death was very personal to me, as she was on duty patrolling the neighborhood where I live with my family in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin -- on the night she was killed. The location where she was gunned down is just behind the homeo f one of my pastors, and just a block away from where my youngest son attends Wauwatosa East High School.

Officer Sebena was protecting the citizens of Wauwatosa on December 24, 2012 when she was ambushed. It should not matter who committed the murder, as the act was taken against a police officer on duty.

I respectfully ask that your organization reconsider the original decision and list the name of slain Wauwatosa Police Officer Jennifer Sebena on the memorial wall of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund."

Meanwhile, Jason Asselin launched an online petition in support of including Sebena's name on the memorial.

"Right now it is gaining over 10 signatures a minute.  I do't know what is going on on Facebook but it seems to be going viral. I'm seeing signatures on here from Florida,  California, Nevada. I mean, it's incredible," Asselin said.

Asselin is a South Milwaukee native, who now lives in Michigan. He spends his free time helping the families of officers killed on duty around the country, which now includes Jennifer Sebena.

"In the end I just want to see her put on the wall.  Give her the respect that she deserves," Asselin said.

Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen has sent a formal letter to the police memorial's chairman and CEO, seeking change.

“I strongly disagree that Officer Sebena’s death was not in the line of duty.  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,” Attorney General Van Hollen wrote.

CLICK HERE to access the petition to get Jennifer Sebena's name on the national memorial.