C.O.P.S. – Loving the Survivors of Fallen Officers
Hovering over the minds of people all across Oklahoma, a strange mix of sadness and fond memories can creep into their holiday season. Having the support of family and friends is essential when a loved one passes away, but in the case of those who have experienced the loss of a police officer, the situation is truly unique.
Because of the nature of the death, the family, co-workers and friends live through public coverage that can last years, especially if criminal activity was involved. Thankfully, these families have C.O.P.S. (Concerns Of Police Survivors), which serves the families, and co-workers of fallen officers by offering hands-on retreats and events centered on understanding, healing and rebuilding the lives of survivors, together.
“The OKCOPS chapter of Concerns of Police Survivors addresses the emotional, psychological, financial and legal issues that arise from the death of a loved one in the law enforcement profession.” In short, they “help rebuild shattered lives,” Bruce Dees, president of OKCOPS, says.
Bruce became acquainted with C.O.P.S. back in 2015 when his phone rang. His youngest son died on January 31, 2015, when a careless, texting civilian struck him and his partner while they were out of their patrol cars working an accident. C.O.P.S. benevolently reached out to his family and his partner, Keith, and his family, calling and offering practical support.
“They reach out to you,” he says as he remembers how he got involved in the organization and started to attend the retreats. Hands-on retreats are offered, “as many times as they [the survivors] need,” Bruce says. “There is no membership fee to join C.O.P.S. for the price paid is already too high. Any surviving family member or co-worker of any law enforcement officer dying in the line of duty is eligible for membership in OKCOPS and C.O.P.S.”
When attending a retreat, attendees find “other people out there that feel like we do,” he says. “People say, ‘I know how you feel,’ but that kind of empathy cannot be fully understood. At the retreats, you don’t have to explain it.”
Because of the support C.O.P.S. offers, many families and co-workers will attend multiple years of retreats. Some go on to serve new families and become informal mentors or leaders.
While the nonprofit began in 1984, the Oklahoma chapter formed in 1999. Bruce accepted his current position, having been witness to the immense care that C.O.P.S. offers. With a desire “to give back,” Bruce took on a leadership role and now blesses others as he has been blessed. They serve a dual purpose for him and his family now, as he not only receives but also gives.
But C.O.P.S. does not only serve the adults who are grieving. They focus much of their attention on the children left after these tragedies as well. Kids camps “make such a difference in their lives,” Bruce says. “They find out they’re not alone.”
Each year they hope to expand, but growth takes place only as funds become available.
To give back, Oklahomans can attend The Thin Blue Line, a run/walk fundraiser on April 14, 2018, hosted by OKCOPS in Stillwater, Oklahoma. To find out more about OKCOPS and their events, visit them on Facebook by searching for OK C.O.P.S. For information on registration for the April fundraiser, visit ThinBlueLine.run.
C.O.P.S. brings about healing and camaraderie, restoration and support. During the upcoming holidays, much can be done to look beyond the decorations and commercial frenzy. Actively reaching out to those in need, C.O.P.S. finds the ones they can love. What an example to follow.