'Shadow Box' Spending Restrictions Lifted : Police: City Council votes unanimously to remove limit on memorial plaques for slain officers.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Prompted by the outrage of police over an austere memorial to a rookie police officer killed in the line of duty, the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to eliminate a spending restriction on memorial plaques for slain police officers.

The recommendation by Councilman Joel Wachs modifies the law that in the past provided only enough money--about $200--to mount the officer's badge on a plaque, which was given to the family at the officer's funeral.

Under the new law, the city will pay to include the officer's gun, medals, pins, whistles and any other personal items requested by the slain officer's family and friends. The memorials, known as "shadow boxes," would cost no more than $500 each, Wachs said.

"It's more than just a matter of money. It is a matter of appreciation and respect," the councilman said. The motion is expected to be signed into law today by Mayor Richard Riordan.

Wachs' attention was drawn to the law by police officers and friends of Officer Christy Hamilton who were outraged when they learned they had to pay to include more than a badge on a framed plaque. Hamilton, a rookie officer, was killed while responding Feb. 22 to a domestic dispute call in Northridge.

Officers who helped arrange Hamilton's memorial plaque and funeral said that while trying to raise money for the fancier plaque, they found that many officers were so financially strapped by home damage from the Northridge quake that they had little to donate for a plaque. In the end, they opted for the free version, but under the new law will present a more elaborate one to her family in November.

Hamilton was the 11th Los Angeles police officer killed in the line of duty since 1989.

Dennis Zine, a director for the Los Angeles Police Protective League, said it is not generally known among officers that the city has only been willing to pay for the simpler plaque. But that restriction, he said, has "been symbolic of how the city treats its employees."

Zine praised Wachs for spearheading the change, saying he is glad "there are City Council people like Joel Wachs who demonstrate their support for Los Angeles' law enforcement community."

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