Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.) has been around since 1984, and the impact on the law enforcement community has only increased with each year that followed. For almost four decades, C.O.P.S. has led the way in ensuring officers who die in the line of duty are never forgotten, and their surviving family members and co-workers will never walk their “new normal” alone.
In the first few years of formation, C.O.P.S. quickly found that the surviving family members not only needed support from people in their everyday lives, but they also needed continued support from their fallen hero’s agency, as well as from each other. Peer support is the heart of the organization and can be found in the 12 hands-on programs offered to all survivorships, including spouses, children, parents, siblings, significant others, extended family members and co-workers.
In the last decade, the law enforcement community has been hit hard. The attacks in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, the ambushes of officers in Dallas, Texas, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 2016, as well as the continued violence toward officers all across the nation each year, simply because of the uniform they wear. In 2020, COVID forced citizens to stay home, but first responders stayed the path to fulfill their duties and continue to fight this invisible threat. Due to COVID, line-of-duty deaths doubled in 2020 and 2021, impacting local, correctional, state, tribal and federal agencies at unparalleled rates.
Perhaps the biggest impact C.O.P.S. has had on the law enforcement community, for both officers and civilians, is the creation of Law Enforcement Appreciation Day.
For decades prior to 2014, C.O.P.S. was training law enforcement agencies across the nation on how to navigate these types of events through the acclaimed Traumas of Law Enforcement trainings. Wanting to have an even greater impact and putting the focus on health and wellness of first responders, the C.O.P.S. National Conference on Law Enforcement Wellness & Trauma was hosted in Grapevine, Texas, for the first time in November 2016.
This conference focuses on trauma and wellness and proactively addresses the cumulative stressors that can occur throughout an officer’s career. From the hard-to-discuss topics such as suicide to yoga for first responders, there is something for everyone in the law enforcement community at this conference. The mission of this conference explains it best — it’s where we put the focus on you, to bring you home to them.
Perhaps the biggest impact C.O.P.S. has had on the law enforcement community, for both officers and civilians, is the creation of Law Enforcement Appreciation Day. After the events of civil unrest in Ferguson in December 2014, C.O.P.S. jumped into action to support America’s peacekeepers and find a way to encourage the rest of the nation to do the same. On January 9, 2015, the first Law Enforcement Appreciation Day was celebrated.
Law enforcement survivors love this day as well because they get to see their local community supporting the profession their officer sacrificed their life for. Supporters shine blue lights from their homes and businesses, wear blue clothing, have school-aged children create cards and drawings thanking their local officers, civilians deliver treats to agencies and share messages on social media, businesses hold special deals just for law enforcement and some communities even hold rallies to thank their local agencies in person (prior to COVID, of course). Multiple states have declared January 9 as an official holiday, and the president of the United States has acknowledged this day and thanked those who keep us safe right here at home.
C.O.P.S. is beyond proud to be able to look back over the past seven years of celebrations and say, “We did this! We gave credit where credit is due!” But we are even more proud to look back on the past four decades and say, “We did this! We helped survivors rebuild their shattered lives and literally saved many lives along the way.”
C.O.P.S. started with 110 survivors and has now grown to serve over 60,000 survivors. Unfortunately, that number continues to grow at a rapid rate. The law enforcement community hurts every time that number grows by even one person. But C.O.P.S. is here, and those 60,000 survivors are here for each other. Because the law enforcement community isn’t just a community; it’s a family.