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In the 25-year history of Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.), Executive Director Suzie Sawyer says she has never been more worried about the organization's financial well-being.
Like many nonprofit organizations, C.O.P.S. is not receiving as much federal grant money as it has in years past. For several years, C.O.P.S. was awarded close to $1 million annually. However, since October (the beginning of the federal government's fiscal year) 2006, C.O.P.S. has received only $720,000 instead of the $2 million it had hoped for over the two-year period, which isn't enough for the organization to serve more than 15,000 families. And requests for services continue to grow.
C.O.P.S. programs include the National Police Survivors' Conference held each May during National Police Week; scholarships; peer support at the national, state and local levels; C.O.P.S. Kids counseling reimbursement program; C.O.P.S. Kids Summer Camp; C.O.P.S. Teens Outward Bound experience for young adults; special retreats for spouses, parents, siblings, adult children, and in-laws; trial and parole support; and other assistance programs.
The survivors' programs, law enforcement training and other assistance C.O.P.S. provides require more than $3 million annually to operate, Sawyer says. And as tough economic times affect many donors, donations to C.O.P.S. don't come easily. Many C.O.P.S. supporters, however, do continue to mobilize to raise money for the organization.
During the October 2008 C.O.P.S. Walk, for example, 74 walkers raised more than $162,000, or a net of about $130,000, for the organization. Without the money from the walk, C.O.P.S. wasn't sure how it would make final payments for parent, in-law and sibling retreats. Most of the walkers in the 2008 event held near Harpers' Ferry, W.Va., were survivors.
"When the survivors are raising money for an organization that they credit with helping them, it's quite a compliment," Sawyer says.
The U.S. Secret Service Employee Recreation Association coordinates the C.O.P.S. walk and a run, which raise about $40,000 annually. The FBI Agents Association also sponsors a run, which raised $40,000 last year.
"It's those kinds of fund-raisers that we need to survive," Sawyer says, noting others have organized golf tournaments, motorcycle rodeos, poker tournaments and bike rides.
"Relying on survivors was never our intent," she says. (There is no membership fee for survivors to join C.O.P.S.) "Our intent is to take care of these people because the price they've paid is already too high."
C.O.P.S. is working to gain more support from law enforcement agencies and associations. At the November 2008 International Association of Chiefs of Police conference, C.O.P.S. was pleased to receive encouragement not only from chiefs but also from the entire association, which passed a resolution encouraging its members to support C.O.P.S.
A Call for Action
"When we promise law enforcement survivors that they will always be part of the law enforcement family, we need to keep that promise," Sawyer says. "C.O.P.S. needs additional funding, and we're hoping our law enforcement family will step to the plate to ensure that happens."
Details on membership programs are available at www.nationalcops.org .