Law prevents this way of honoring fallen deputy

Posted at 10:17 PM, Jan 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-19 06:03:20-05

When we last met the Brownlees, Tanner wanted one last piece of his dad's memory. He lost a bidding war when his dad's Dodge Charger was auctioned off in May, but he still won the car when the highest bidder handed him the keys.

Emotional story: Sons of fallen deputy outbid at auction for car, get keys anyway

It turns out, the rest of the Weld County Sheriff's Department wants something to remember fallen Weld County Deputy Sam Brownlee by, too.

"Sam was just a good guy. That was his calling. He was a deputy sheriff through and through," said Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams.

Deputy Brownlee was killed in the line of duty in 2010.  So when a special commemorative license plate was made in his honor, it only seemed fitting each patrol car would display one too. 

To get the plate, you must make a $50 donation to the Colorado Chapter of Concerns of Police Survivors or C.O.P.S.--an organization that provides services for survivors of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.

"In our particular case, we were trying to auction off the car that Sam Brownlee used to drive to help raise those funds to, in turn, make a donation on behalf of every one of our cars," Sheriff Reams said.

The car auctioned off for $60,000, but the problem?

Under state law, a government vehicle is not allowed to have a specialty plate, otherwise it loses its tax-exempt status. 

"I don't think it was an intended consequence, I think it was truly an oversight," said Reams.

The department isn't giving up. Next week, Heather Tharp, Brownlee's widow, will head to the state capitol to try and save the plates.  She hopes to get the language changed so the department vehicles can keep their tax-exempt status and still use the plates.

"I think we need to let them know that we're out there and we do support them, that we honor them and that we'll remember them," Tharp said.