Showing Solidarity

Showing Solidarity

As long ago as 1894, an association was established in New York City to take care of the widows and orphans of fallen officers. But over the next 100 years, families of law enforcement agents mistakenly were assumed to be stronger emotionally and better prepared than civilians to cope with losses and grief because they are part of a tightly knit community that “takes care of its own.” The inadequate responses of many police departments brought about the establish- ment of counseling units, death notification training, and peer support groups for injured and disabled offi- cers (see Sawyer, 1987; Stillman, 1987; Martin, 1989; and “Does Your Agency Measure Up?” 1999).

A national self-help group with many local chap- ters that is dedicated to addressing the concerns of

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survivors (mostly young widows and their children) offers many forms of concrete aid and emotional sup- port (for example, advice about sleep problems while grieving and ways of coping with depression during major holidays). The scope of their services ranges from monitoring the trials of accused cop killers and opposing their eventual parole to erecting mem- orials for those who gave their lives to protect the public. The organization provides training to alert officers about dangerous situations that are prevent- able; offers peer-support retreats for grieving spouses and coworkers; delivers emotional support via counseling, group outings, publications, and websites; holds seminars about proper methods of death notifi- cation and ways of obtaining all the benefits the next of kin are entitled to; and raises money through walks, contests, and tournaments for scholarships and special events (such as summer camps for the slain officers’ children) (see Gregory, 2011; and Bernhard, 2014). These activities demonstrate how an entire caring community—in this case, the “police family”—can work together to ease the suffering of those who have lost a loved one.

Law enforcement agents demonstrate another kind of solidarity when “one of their own” is mur- dered. They are relentless in their pursuit of the killers of “their brothers in blue” until they are all “brought to justice.” As noted above, only 4 fugi- tives escaped the long arm of the law out of the roughly 600 persons wanted for slaying cops in the line of duty. Therefore, the clearance rate for murders of officers was about 99 percent, as com- pared to a clearance rate of around 65 percent for murders of civilians during the 10 years between 2002 and 2011.

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