Tragedies that befall our law enforcers today, be it a death, injury or some other loss, give birth to an avalanche of Go Fund Me, Kick Starter, or other fundraising accounts and events. These fundraising campaigns are usually started by those with a personal connection as a way to help meet the immediate physical needs of that officer or family. The people who care about our law enforcers see those campaigns as they are spread and shared across social media and, because they want to help in some way, they kick in a few bucks, get to feel better about themselves for helping “solve” the problem, and then move on. The bigger the tragedy that occurs, the bigger the headline, and the bigger the haul of donations. Some recent fundraising headlines:
Fundraiser started for family of injured Saraland police officer
Fundraiser held for family of fallen Detroit officer Myron Jarrett
Restaurant will give tonight’s proceeds to benefit St. Louis police sergeant injured in shooting
Fundraiser Held For Orange Police Officer, Marine Corps Veteran Injured By Suspected Drunk Driver
Slain Dallas officers’ families receive $10M donation
Unfortunately, this has become the norm in today’s society, our collective knee jerk reaction to any and all tragedies. Though these donations are sorely needed, the reality is that these fundraising campaigns only scare up enough resources to address a specific need in that moment. Sometimes it helps offset a loss of income, pays some bills, purchase badly needed medical equipment or medications that are not covered, or even go towards paying the medical bills that pile up on an officer and their family even when they are injured in the line of duty.
The fact that any officer or LEO family should have a need for such fundraisers or charity is disheartening. We would never even think of treating our military service men and women injured on the battlefield in such a manner, so why do it to our officers fighting and being maimed on the Homefront? It is no less a battlefield than Iraq or Afghanistan, just ask any cop in Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore, St. Louis, NYC, or any other location. The difference lies in the fact our military members, for better or worse, have a national advocate in the Veteran’s Administration. Our law enforcement officers on the other hand do not. They are left alone to fight a David versus Goliath battle on every front, whether for monetary benefits, medical coverage, mental health resources, or pensions.
The founders of the Wounded Officers Initiative, all current or former LEOs, seek to change that by leveling the playing field. WOI is a 501c3 non-profit charity, which is not at all unusual these days. The manner in which WOI seeks to effect that change is what sets this charity apart from others. WOI was not established as the normal everyday disbursement organization, collecting a bunch of money, presenting a check to a hurt cop at a photo op, and then move on to the next officer in need. Instead, WOI’s foundation lays upon its five goals that were developed in consultation with wounded officers themselves so as to identify what their long term needs were. These identified needs were the prolonged requirements that remained long after the Go Fund Me’s, Kickstarter’s, and other fundraising events have come and gone, along with the spotlight, co-workers, and attention.
Through the five goals of Counseling, Advocacy, Awareness, Recognition, and Education, WOI is developing programs that will help address the long term needs that these men and women face. One such program helps address the issue of uneven and inadequate disability benefits that our wounded heroes must endure. Depending upon where an officer works, or even when they were hired, an injured officer can be compensated very differently than another officer with the very same injuries. WOI seeks to establish a national minimum disability standard that each agency would have to adhere to and that is fair to every officer, no matter where they work.
Another program currently being developed and implemented is WOI’s BlueLine Support™ program, which is a confidential peer based model that utilizes a network of “police oriented” mental health professionals that officers in need are referred to. BlueLine Support™ of Central Florida, currently operating on a limited basis due to the fallout of the Pulse nightclub attack, will eventually serve the five counties, 65 police agencies, and 9000+ officers that are in the greater Orlando area of Central Florida. The program will be available to spouses and retirees as well. The Central Florida program will also serve as the model for future BlueLine Support™ network rollouts at different locations across the nation.
Obviously, these endeavors all cost money to develop, implement, and expand, just as the immediate needs of one officer also requires money. The reality, however, is that each dollar raised by WOI goes much further than helping one particular officer or family with one specific need. Every dollar collected by WOI goes directly into helping develop those programs that will address the long term needs of countless officers when successful. This is where WOI differs from most other charitable organizations. WOI seeks to solve the problems facing our officers with a plan, goals, and programs, not to simply keep changing the Band Aid on the gushing arterial bleed by continuously throwing fistfuls of cash at the symptoms of the problems.
The real question is, are we, as a profession, ready to admit, confront, and attack these problems in a coordinated and calculated manner so as to effect real and lasting change that helps every individual officer?
Find out more at: http://www.woundedofficersinitiative.org/; or on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WoundedOfficersInitiative/
– Karen Solomon, Creator, 1stHelp; Co-Founder, 1stAlliance; Author, Hearts Beneath the Badge and The Price They Pay