It’s amazing the changes we go through in life – especially once you get married and have kids.
You go from being invincible to being terrifyingly mortal… seemingly overnight.
When I said, “I do”, it was no longer about providing for myself. And when I laid my eyes on our first child, I knew it was no longer about providing for just my wife and I.
Mortality is never an easy or a comfortable topic to talk about or even consider. But it’s something we all think about when we consider the legacy we want to leave behind.
When I’m gone… what will my family remember? Did I do more good than harm? Did I touch lives? Did I save lives? Will my family be taken care of?
Having interviewed thousands of police officers over the years, I know without a doubt it’s something that goes through all of their minds.
Helping share the stories of countless wounded officers, I know it’s something that they are intimately familiar with.
But hugging…holding… praying with the survivors of officers killed in the line of duty – that’s something entirely different.
Our family at Law Enforcement Today has been incredibly blessed to get to know the team at Concerns of Police Survivors – or “C.O.P.S.” over the past year. We selected them as our “charity of choice” not just because we vetted them… but because we’ve seen up close and personal the work they do.
The people they’ve touched.
The lives they’ve saved.
In case you’ve never heard of them… you need to learn their name.
Each year, between 140 and 160 officers are killed in the line of duty and their families and co-workers are left to cope with the tragic loss. C.O.P.S. provides resources to help them rebuild their shattered lives. There is no membership fee to join C.O.P.S., for the price paid is already too high.
C.O.P.S. was organized in 1984 with 110 individual members. Today, C.O.P.S. membership is over 50,000 survivors. Survivors include spouses, children, parents, siblings, significant others, and co-workers of officers who have died in the line of duty according to Federal government criteria.
C.O.P.S. is governed by a national board of law enforcement survivors. All programs and services are administered by the National Office in Camdenton, Missouri. C.O.P.S. has over 50 chapters nationwide that work with survivors at the grass-roots level.
C.O.P.S. programs for survivors include the National Police Survivors’ Conference held each May during National Police Week, scholarships, peer-support at the national, state, and local levels, “C.O.P.S. Kids” counseling reimbursement program, the “C.O.P.S. Kids” Summer Camp, “C.O.P.S. Teens” Outward Bound Adventure for young adults, special retreats for spouses, parents, siblings, adult children, extended family, and co-workers, trial and parole support, and other assistance programs.
C.O.P.S. knows that a survivor’s level of distress is directly affected by the agency’s response to the tragedy. C.O.P.S., therefore, offers training and assistance to law enforcement agencies nationwide on how to respond to the tragic loss of a member of the law enforcement profession. C.O.P.S. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. C.O.P.S. programs and services are funded by grants and donations.
We met them last year at the National Conference on Law Enforcement Wellness and Trauma.
C.O.P.S. recognizes that every law enforcement officer is subjected to crisis and tragedy as a part of their job. They see the most unthinkable acts of criminal behavior in our society. But are we doing a good job helping officers navigate these events over a course of a twenty to thirty-year career?
We continue to see officers suffering from PTSD in growing numbers. Divorce rates continue to be higher for officers than the general public, and tragically, too many officers choose to end their own lives each year.
The conference offers a much-needed focus on officer wellness and the need to pro-actively address the cumulative stresses that can occur over an officer’s career. It’s for all law enforcement officers (active or retired) nationwide, and is recommended for peer supporters, counselors, police chaplains and law enforcement spouses/significant others. Law enforcement survivors are also welcome to attend.
It was at that conference that I interviewed my first 30 survivors.
Let me tell you something. For people who have been through absolute hell and back after losing their officers, these are some of the greatest warriors I’ve ever met. Their strength… it’s something that can’t be described.
Take, for example, my friend Susan Moody. Susan’s husband was killed in the line of duty. She then had to go tell her one and 3-year-old daughters that daddy would never come home. Click here to watch her full story.
I thought I was tough. I was wrong. I’m not. I lost it. I have three little girls.
Susan… my God. What an incredible woman. What fortitude. What resilience. She’s now helping shepherd other survivors through that same journey.
That’s a power that, in my belief, comes from three places.
- God. I know, I know. In this politically correct world, we’re not supposed to talk about God. But let me tell you something – I have seen His hand at work through this incredible organization. I’ve seen a strength in these survivors that can only be described as supernatural. I’ve cried with them… and I’ve prayed with them. And I make no bones about it.
- Inside. I really believe that these survivors have a strength in themselves that they were never aware of… until they were forced to find it.
- C.O.P.S. It’s an organization that doesn’t care about fame or glory. They operate on a shoestring budget and pump every penny possible into helping save the lives of these warriors.
We all have flaws in our organizations. And C.O.P.S. has one big one. It’s only fair to call it out – because I believe that the only way to grow is to recognize our own shortcomings.
Their flaw isn’t that they aren’t as aggressive as many organizations in soliciting money. It’s not that they tend to avoid the spotlight and the public relations that could flood them with donations.
It’s not that so many of the very personal stories of their employees that would explain their “why” remain hidden.
It’s that they think they have a bit of an impact on the greater world… and they’re wrong.
There’s the old saying that a butterfly that flutters it’s wings on one side of the world can cause a hurricane on the other. The idea that we’ll never be able to see the impact of the work we do… but that it adds up.
I’ve watched the team at C.O.P.S. run themselves into the ground, going from event to event. I’ve been with them when they’ve taken calls late at night and early in the morning. I’ve seen them hold strangers and cry.
I’ve seen them wrap their arms around survivors and pray with them. I’ve seen them break down in the still of the night when the incredible weight of what they carry becomes too much… then I’ve seen them wipe the tears from their eyes and keep going.
I’ve had survivors tell me that they are alive today because of C.O.P.S. I’ve met the children of their survivors.
I’ve been on the street with police officers who are cops today because their parent was killed in the line of duty… and C.O.P.S. was there to help them rebuild shattered lives.
I’ve watched some of those police officers go on to save lives of children. And those children will go on to touch countless lives.
Concerns of Police Survivors isn’t a butterfly flapping its little wings, ultimately causing enough air displacement to create a hurricane.
C.O.P.S. IS the hurricane. They’re just too damn humble to see it.
I hope and pray that you’ll join me in supporting this incredible organization. Because while we’re all working on creating our own legacy… this is a group that’s ensuring that the legacy of our bravest warriors carries on in their survivors.
Each of us is that butterfly. Maybe it’s a small donation. Maybe it’s sharing this article. But together… we can help support this incredible force. Please… join me.
God bless America.