COMMENTARY: Honoring a father: Lt. Steven Floyd

Like many in Delaware and around the country, I felt incredibly blessed to have been able to celebrate Father’s Day this month surrounded by family. In a world where there is much darkness, the beautiful light that comes from the love of our children, parents and those we care about, illuminates and guides us daily towards being more kind, more caring and more compassionate human beings.

Over a year ago, one of our fellow Delawareans, Lt. Steven Floyd, a 16- year officer with the Delaware Department of Corrections, was murdered as he worked to keep his fellow citizens safe from the most violent of criminals. More than most, Lt. Floyd understood the darkness, dealing daily with individuals who saw no value in human life, thus leaving his grieving family a missing presence for all Father’s Days to come.

Sen. Ernesto Lopez

Evidence and analysis in the aftermath of Lt. Floyd’s murder all point to one overwhelming deficiency in work place environment: constant and inadequate levels of staffing, not just at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Facility but at all of our Delaware Department of Corrections locations.

Today, over a year after the murder, with 90 fewer officers, 275 vacant positions remain in a department overseeing 7,000 offenders. Imagine a sold-out 5,000 seat Bob Carpenter Center at the University of Delaware then add another half. The need is tremendous and now more than ever, our Delaware Department of Corrections officers need the support of the Delaware General Assembly and they need it today.

This life-threatening challenge of low staffing levels can be addressed and improved with a simple up or down vote on Senate Bill 95, the Steven Floyd Act, which brings fairness and equity to the compensation package earned by Delaware corrections officers.

The fiscal note attached to the bill, an investment of $6.1 million dollars, pales in comparison to the $30 million spent so far this year in grueling mandatory overtime pay. With the release of the most recent Delaware Economic and Financial Forecast estimates showing a $46.5 million increase in revenue, not only is the legislation fiscally prudent, it reinforces to our corrections officers our commitment to keep all Delawareans safe, particularly those who protect us in the most dangerous of environments.

In these politically divisive times, the legislation is one of the least divisive and most bipartisan in Legislative Hall with 24 senators and representatives of both political parties co-sponsoring the measure.

With just a few days left in the 149th Delaware General Assembly, I ask all of my colleagues, from both chambers and both sides of the aisle to unite and join me on behalf of all senators and all representatives in support of a bill that should have 62 co-sponsors and demand for a unanimous affirmative vote on SB 95, the Steven Floyd Act in an effort to ensure that no more families of corrections officers suffer the loss of a loved one again.

Sen. Ernesto B. López, a Republican, represents Lewes in the Delaware General Assembly.

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