FOX 11 Investigates: Wisconsin Law Enforcement Memorial license plate plan

Wisconsin Law Enforcement Memorial license plate

(WLUK) -- The Wisconsin Law Enforcement Officers Memorial is one way to pay tribute to fallen officers. In 2013, the state created another way to honor them: a special memorial license plate.

The idea was the brainchild of then-Menasha police officer Martin Schrampfer.

"My goal was just to raise awareness. To honor the officers that died in the line of duty," Schrampfer told FOX 11. The now-retired officer says he got the idea after seeing other states with similar plates.

"I just kind of got to thinking, we should do something like that in Wisconsin," Schrampfer said.

He enlisted the help of then State Rep. Dean Kaufert.

"Both of us have the same goal is that making awareness of what our officers do day in and day out and those that lose their lives and honoring them," Kaufert said.

Kaufert and Schrampfer spent six years trying to get a bill passed.

"There were people who were saying 'we have too many different style of plates in the state right now,'" Kaufert said.

"It was kind of surprising for something that seemed to be a good thing to do, how difficult it could be to get it through," Schrampfer said.

Eventually it passed. Today, nearly 1,000 people are showing their support for fallen officers, including Madison resident Steve Fitzsimmons.

"I wanted to get those as a way to give back to the police, show support for police," Fitzsimmons said.

But Fitzsimmons says he was surprised to find out the plates didn't raise any money for the Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

"Wouldn't it be nice to not only show our support with a license plate but also making contributions to this fund annually," Fitzsimmons said.

Fitzsimmons reached out to State Rep. David Steffen.

"I found that interesting myself and I began to research it," Steffen told FOX 11.

According to the state Department of Transportation, Wisconsin has 47 different specialty plates. The DOT website lists 23 of those plates that raise money for a cause.

"There is $1.5 million or more that is raised every single year for various charities and organizations through these specialty plate programs. The one that's probably the most deserving of all of them is the one that supports the families of fallen law enforcement officers in the state of Wisconsin," Steffen said.

That's why Steffen is proposing a bill that would add a $10 fee would be added to the Law Enforcement Memorial plate. Most of the other fundraiser plates require an extra $25 fee.

"I think it's appropriate that we add this modest amount for those who wish to voluntarily show their support for those who have fallen in the line of duty," Steffen said.

The idea has the support of the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Memorial board.

"I think it's tremendous," said Crag Kolbeck, chairman of the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Memorial board. He explains how the group spends some of its money.

"If there is a line of duty death almost instantly, the memorial sends cash or a check to the immediate survivor to handle, to assist with any immediate funeral costs because any benefits they would receive for a line of duty death take quite some time for them to receive so that is an instant thing that we send out," Kolbeck said.

Those who led the effort to create the plate have a different view of Steffen's proposal.

"It's not as bad as $25 but again, I feel like the point of the plate was not to raise money it was to honor and show respect," Schrampfer said.

"I don't see any big obstacles or big objections to that other than people are going to have to make that commitment in order to buy this plate each and every year," Kaufert said.

Steffen says he wants the fee to be lower to be sensitive to people who already have the plate.

"Awareness is incredibly important and it should be the primary goal. However, let's be clear that the fund is a financial mechanism to assist the families of fallen law enforcement," Steffen said.

Fitzsimmons says he thinks the idea will get a lot of support.

"Nothing wrong with getting the awareness out there. I think that's wonderful. But they need money, too," Fitzsimmons said.

Schrampfer says he understands the need. He just says it's not what the plate was originally designed to do.

"The purpose the plate from the start was to raise awareness and show respect and to honor not to try to raise money," Schrampfer said.

Under Steffen's bill, the money raised by the memorial plate would be split by the state and national law enforcement memorial groups. But Steffen says the money would be spent to support programs and families in Wisconsin.

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