Honoring Our Fallen, Supporting Their Survivors
C.O.P.S. has become a “lifeline” to law enforcement survivors nationwide. C.O.P.S. contributes to the emotional and psychological well-being of the surviving family – the most hauntingly difficult aspect of the aftermath of sudden, tragic, often violent, line-of-duty death. Through our National Board, local Chapters, and national network of survivors, C.O.P.S. is able to contact a newly-bereaved surviving family – sometimes within just days of the death. It helps the new survivors to see people who have survived the devastation, thus providing a sense of hope. The C.O.P.S. National Office contacts each surviving family at least six times a year. Quarterly newsletters provide messages of hope and encouragement and share stories of survivors’ accomplishments since the death of the officer.
C.O.P.S. also sends a remembrance card to each survivor during the anniversary month of the officer’s death. Too often survivors are reluctant to share their feelings of grief because they don’t want to be a “burden” to their friends and neighbors. This card lets them know that others remember their officer and the sacrifice he or she made. The holiday season can be especially difficult for survivors. C.O.P.S. lets survivors know that it is okay to feel happy or sad, to continue holiday traditions or to start new traditions, to celebrate or not celebrate. Survivors know that when they need it, support is just a phone call away! Survivors of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty according to Federal government criteria, regardless of the date of death, are encouraged to contact C.O.P.S. for more information.
Each May during National Police Week activities in Washington, DC, C.O.P.S. hosts the National Police Survivors’ Conference. Law enforcement survivors from all across the nation gather for in-depth grief work and issue-oriented information sharing.
Break-out seminar sessions are offered so that survivors with like concerns and issues can work together, finding solutions to their common problems. Special sessions are offered for surviving co-workers, significant others, fiancés, and extended family members as well. Children under the age of 18 can participate in the “C.O.P.S. Kids/Teens” Program.
Examples of sessions include:
- Organizing a C.O.P.S. Chapter and Keeping It Healthy
- Surviving the Crisis as a Couple
- Reaching Out to the Newly Bereaved
- Am I Still a Brother/Sister?
- Making It through the First Two Years (Spouses, Fiancés, Significant Others, and Life Partners Only)
- Defining the Role of the Liaison Officer
- Law Enforcement Death Is Always So Traumatic; Why?
- Preparing for Trial and the Aftermath
- Journaling Your Way through Grief
- Tactics for Preventing Chronic Depression
- Moving Forward with Clarity: The “Dear God” Letter
- Being a Law Enforcement Officer and a Family Survivor
- Co-Workers and Families: Easing Each Other’s Pain
- Loss and Grief: Why Do I Feel This Way
- Creating a Caring Agency
National Police Week Activities
At the National Police Survivors’ Conference each May during National Police Week, children who have lost a parent to a line-of-duty death can participate in special activities. For many kids, this is the first time they have made contact with peers – other kids who have gone through the same thing they have – the loss of a parent to line-of-duty death. A dedicated staff of professionals and volunteers assess the children’s emotional well-being, listen and guide them through any issues they wish to talk about, while participating in a variety of fun activities. Results of the emotional assessments are provided to parents after Police Week so that, if needed, additional counseling can be obtained at home.
C.O.P.S. believes that children cannot heal if their surviving parent doesn’t heal. C.O.P.S.’ Summer Camp provides surviving spouses with children (ages 6-14) the opportunity to work with professional counselors and trained mentors to improve communications within the family unit and resolve grief issues together.
Organized camp activities are supplemented with counseling during the week-long camp. Friendly competition, planned activities that encourage team building, and shared fun times in a camp atmosphere help families recognize that the teamwork approach will help them cope with their grief.
Instituted in 1998, C.O.P.S. Annual Wilderness Experience helps surviving older children (aged 15-20) build self-esteem with a group of peers who understand what it is like to lose a law enforcement parent to a line-of-duty death. This annual activity might be mountain climbing in the Rockies in Colorado, or white-water rafting in Utah. This event is an Outward Bound® Program.
Young Adults Camp
C.O.P.S. Young Adults Camp is planned for surviving children and siblings (15-20 years of age) of law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty, as determined by C.O.P.S. criteria. Other relatives and friends are not eligible to attend.
Growing up without a parent or older sibling role model can be challenging for young teenagers and adults. C.O.P.S. Young Adults Camp will give surviving children and siblings the opportunity to be surrounded by peers who understand, attend grief seminar sessions specifically designed for their needs, and participate in fun and challenging outdoor activities. This camp will be a mixture of enjoyable camp-like activities and a structured adult program, allowing surviving children and siblings to grow into young adults. This camp is planned to offer an alternative program option to surviving minor-aged children and a new program option for surviving minor-aged siblings. We still encourage surviving children to attend the Outward Bound® Adventure Program, but if they are physically unable to participate or have participated for a few years and would like a change, this camp would be a good fit for them.
WAStateC.O.P.S. offers financial assistance for survivors to attend their retreat.
- C.O.P.S. provides Hands-On Programs designed specifically for each survivorship to help rebuild their shattered lives:
- Parents’ Retreat provides surviving parents of the fallen officer with strong peer support to help cope with the pain of losing their child.
- Spouses Retreat is a weekend getaway for surviving spouses where debriefers and strong peer support infuse surviving spouses with a significant dose of self-esteem and new-found confidence.
- Siblings Retreat is a weekend where brothers and sisters have access to mental health professionals and can meet others who lost a sibling in the line of duty help deal with their pain.
- Adult Children’s Retreat is for surviving adult children 21 years and older and provides counselors and strong peer support to help deal with the death of their parent.
- Extended Family Retreat assists the extended family of the officer (in-laws, cousins, grandparents, etc.) in coping with the death of their law enforcement officer.
- Affected Co-Workers’ Retreat is for law enforcement officers hurting from the death of a co-worker in the line of duty.
- Co-Workers for Couples Retreat is for law enforcement officers and their spouses hurting from the death of a co-worker in the line of duty.
WAStateC.O.P.S. offers financial assistance for survivors to attend their retreat.
WAStateC.O.P.S. publishes a quarterly newsletter focusing on the special concerns of law enforcement surviving families. This newsletter is mailed to over 3000 contacts statewide.
National C.O.P.S. publishes a quarterly newsletter focusing on the special concerns of law enforcement surviving families. This newsletter is mailed to over 22,000 contacts nationwide. Twice yearly, C.O.P.S. publishes a newsletter focusing on items of interest to law enforcement. This newsletter is mailed to over 37,000 contacts nationwide. C.O.P.S. has also developed a 16-page handbook, “Support Services to Surviving Families of Line-of-Duty Death,” to help public safety agencies meet the support needs of the surviving families following a line-of-duty death.
“Better Not Bitter” is a 113-page paperback book telling the story of Concerns of Police Survivors, Inc.
Available for download from our national parent are:
- Support Services to Surviving Families – To assist agencies with handling an officer death.
- “In Person, In Time” – Procedures for death notification.
- Model Line-of-Duty Death Manual – Reprinted with permission of the Metro Transit Police Department, Washington, DC.
- Model Line-of-Duty Death Policy – Reprinted with permission of the Norman, OK, Police Department.
- Research in Brief – Survivors’ responses & departmental policies.
- How May We Assist Your Agency?
- Oklahoma State University Study – “Post-traumatic Growth in Survivors of Police Officer Line-of-Duty Death Research Report.”
- Your Personal/Financial Diary – An aid for organizing your affairs for your family.
- “Guide To Survival” – For family and friends of homicide victims.
- PSOB Beneficiaries Designation Form