City left policeman's widow with the bills

Friday, September 25, 1998

The Cincinnati Enquirer

On the day of her husband's burial, Linda Pope holds the flag that draped her husband's coffin.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
| ZOOM |

|The funeral |

|Pope-Jeter page |

Linda Pope aches to be healed.

Nine months after her husband was shot to death, she's better. But thousands of dollars of bills and a cold shoulder from city officials keep her grief raw and painful.

Linda's husband was Cincinnati Police Officer Daniel Pope. Last December, Officer Pope and his partner, Spc. Ronald Jeter, were shot by a man they were trying to arrest. They died on the floor of a Clifton Heights apartment.

Four days later, Officer Pope was laid to rest in a long, draining funeral that began at St. Peter in Chains Cathedral and ended nearly three hours later in Spring Grove Cemetery with a bagpiper playing "Amazing Grace."

Surviving all this would be bad enough. But now Linda Pope is also stuck with the funeral bill, a bill she was told would be taken care of by the city.

Over a long cup of coffee this week in the kitchen of the log dream home she built with her husband, Linda Pope talked about the hurt and anger that gnaw at her day after day.

Daniel Pope
The officers' funerals drew two of the largest outpourings of public mourning in Cincinnati history. Hundreds of law enforcement officers were joined by thousands of average citizens.

And while tears were being shed, while the motorcades and processions were being planned, promises were being made.

Originally, Linda Pope wanted a small, private funeral. She made her wishes known. But the outpouring of emotions persuaded her to have the big public funeral, with full police honors, the news crews, the whole nine yards.

"I lost my husband twice," she told me, clasping her fingers together, digging her fingernails into cuticles rubbed raw from rage. "The first time was when he was killed. The second time was with his funeral. He became the property of everybody."

Councilman Todd Portune visited her the night after the shooting. She said he told her all funeral costs would be taken care of.

High-ranking police officers told Linda Pope to gather her relatives for the funeral. They said airline tickets would be taken care of.

"I agreed to the big funeral so other police officers could start healing," she said. "Cops needed to say goodbye."

Mr. Portune says that back in December, he told Linda Pope only that he would try to get her expenses covered. He did not promise it would be done. But he did say, "I can't imagine anybody would be against this."

The city did give Linda Pope a lump sum of $20,000 in death benefits, money due the spouse of any officer who dies in the line of duty.

Linda Pope is a firefighter with the Cincinnati Fire Division. But she doesn't want any special favors just because she works for the same city as her husband. "I'm just asking for people to keep their word."

She used part of that lump sum to pay $8,100 in funeral expenses and $4,400 in plane tickets, the bills she was told would be taken care of.

Paul Weber is a district fire chief, Linda's boss and a close family friend. A month after the funeral, he took the bills to Mr. Portune on Linda's behalf.

The councilman went to each member of council, trying to push through a motion to cover the expenses. His straw vote ended up three in favor, six opposed. Council didn't think it necessary to pay for Daniel Pope's big public funeral.

This summer, the unreimbursed bills still gnawed at Linda Pope. She complained to the Fraternal Order of Police, members of council and cops on the beat. On Aug. 4, a motion to pay for both slain officers' funerals was introduced by Phil Heimlich, one of the six who told Mr. Portune "no" in January.

Nearly two months later, the motion is awaiting a report from the city manager on its merits. Mr. Heimlich said Thursday he expects a vote in two weeks.

Linda Pope grieves for her husband. She also aches to get over the anger she feels toward city council.

"Whenever I think of those people," she said, "I get angry, and the wound in my heart gets bigger."

Linda Pope wants to get on with her life as best she can. I think it's about time we help her.

Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340.