At an event I attended recently, I met the commander of a law enforcement agency who had lost an officer in a violent line-of-duty death. As he shared the details of the tragedy with me, I was so touched by the depth of his concern for the family of the lost officer.
I was even more struck by how much he needed to talk, tell his story, and share the details of what happened so he could try to cope with the many emotions he was experiencing as a result of the death of one of his officers.
Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.) offered its first hands-on retreat for co-workers affected by a line-of-duty death in early October, and structured the event to specifically to make it possible for law enforcement officers and staff to talk through their experiences. The event was a format for them to address the trauma and grief they were experiencing.
When the national board of C.O.P.S. voted to begin offering retreats for affected co-workers, no one knew what the response would be, or if anyone would even register to attend. Staff members worried that officers would be concerned that attending a retreat to address their trauma and grief might make their co-workers or commanders question their emotional stability.
For this reason, C.O.P.S. follows a very strict confidentiality policy for this retreat. We believe it's crucial that whose who participate know they can attend with complete confidence that no one will be aware of their participation in the Affected Co-Workers retreat unless they want them to know.
"What happens in Potosi stays in Potosi," said a Kentucky officer who attended a retreat. "The actual events may remain in Potosi, but the emotional uplift and changes to the person will travel far from Missouri."
The retreats are offered at YMCA Trout Lodge in Potosi, Mo., at no charge to the attendees. C.O.P.S. believes they have already paid too high a price. The first retreat was attended by 42 men and women who are officers, commanders, and dispatchers from all over the country. They represented nearly every rank and proved that a line-of-duty death affects many people within the agency.
"The one common element with everyone in attendance was that our lives had been touched by tragedy—the line-of-duty death of an officer," said the Kentucky co-worker. "Whether it was felonious or accidental, it didn't matter. Lives had been changed by the loss of a co-worker, a friend, a part of the family."
The second C.O.P.S. Affected Co-Workers retreat is scheduled for Nov. 4-7 in Potosi, Missouri at YMCA Trout Lodge. For more information, contact the C.O.P.S. national office at 573-346-4911 or visit the C.O.P.S. website.