Fight Continues Over Health Care For Officer Jay Marles Children
Fourteen months after Ocean Gate Police Officer Jason Marles was struck and killed by a drunk driver on his way home from a shift, the status of benefits for his two children remains a point of contention. Marles' former wife, Virginia Smalls has publicly made claims that she was assured the children would be taken care of by the Ocean Gate Police Department, however Police Chief Reece Fisher claims he made no promises, explaining that he made sure his department did everything in it’s power to help.
That meant countless requests to the Department of Justice and National Memorial Fund to have Officer Marles health benefits transferred to seven-year-old daughter Taryn and five-year-old son Landon, Fisher said.
“We filled out several applications, which some of them were very detailed and in depth and unfortunately we did not receive favorable results,” he said.
REQUESTS DENIED BY DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
All of the requests filled out by Chief Fisher and his staff were denied since Marles was off duty during the accident.
“Because he was in his personal vehicle traveling home and off duty at the time of him death, they are not considering it a line of duty death for the purposes of continued medical benefits,” Fisher said.
It’s a situation Fisher was not necessarily happy with, though he feels his hands were tied since the decision was ultimately made by the Justice Department and the National Memorial Fund.
“That’s their position, I mean if I had an insurance company and it was the Ocean Gate Police Insurance Fund, the children would be covered. That’s how simple it would be, but that’s not the case,” Fisher said.
DISAPPOINTED AT VIRGINIA SMALLS' COMMENTS
Fisher says what did shock him however were comments made by Virginia Smalls which insinuated that Officer Marles did not know when his shift officially started or ended, and that the Ocean Gate Police Department wasn’t doing everything in their power to help Marles' children.
“It’s very unfortunate and very disappointing at some of the comments that miss Smalls has made," he said." Some to the extent of very disturbing.”
Fisher notes that the department had an established procedure of clocking in and out which had been in place for Marles' nine-year tenure with the department.
Marles was a training officer, which Fisher said meant he was especially cognizant of the rules and procedures.
He says Smalls had asked the department to adjust Marles time clock to reflect him being on duty at the time of the accident, however Fisher says that is a request which he under no circumstances could ever entertain.
“This agency cannot extend itself nor I to say he was on duty and killed in the line of duty, by their definition, when he was on the conclusion of his shift,” he said.
UNDERSTANDING THE FRUSTRATION
He understands Virginia Smalls’ frustration of not being able to have benefits transfer to the children, but Fisher says that is not for any lack of effort or diligence on his department’s part.
“So she is aware of the issue here. The issue here is not with the borough, not with the chief of police, not with the police officers. The issue is with the State of New Jersey Division of Pension and Benefits,” Fisher said.
Officer Marles' children have a college fund set up by the PBA, though money from that can only be used for paying for a college education.