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The night of July 26, 1990, irrevocably changed the lives of two police officers with the Jacksonville (Fla.) Sheriff’s Office. Officer Kirk Clark and his partner, Officer Warren C. Sanders, attempted to arrest drug dealers. After a brief foot chase, one suspect turned and put his hands up as if to surrender. But the second suspect opened fire. He shot and killed Sanders and Clark was hit nine times, twice in his bullet-resistant vest. Clark found no joy in surviving the attack. Instead, he suffered deep depression, chronic severe pain and anxiety. He reverted into a shell, a man who could no longer do “the job.”
Concerns of Police Survivors (COPS) has seen firsthand the effects an officer’s death has on coworkers like Clark and works to alleviate them. On Oct. 1–4, COPS is offering its first annual weekend retreat for affected coworkers at the YMCA Trout Lodge in Potosi, Mo.
Surviving coworkers of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty can bond with, and find support from, others who have also lost a coworker to a line-of-duty death. Coworkers will attend support sessions, get support from peers and take part in training that will help them cope with the emotions that continue to plague them while on the job.
Just like all the other COPS retreats, there will also be fun times shared in a beautiful setting removed from the stresses of everyday life. Also, like surviving family retreats, affected coworkers will only be responsible for their travel costs to and from St. Louis.
Clark explains the importance of COPS and an Affected Coworkers Retreat: “The support I received from COPS was responsible for giving me my life back! The peer support COPS makes available is invaluable because people find comfort in discovering they are not alone. There is something liberating in being in a group setting of people who truly know how you feel, because they have been there or are still there. There is a freedom in knowing that you are not being judged. You can laugh or cry and it stays in the room.”
That’s exactly what coworkers will recognize at the retreat—they’re not alone in the debilitating grief that can plague coworkers of a fallen officer. COPS will provide professional mental health services to help coworkers communicate and work on resolving issues by sharing feelings freely with others who have also experienced the loss of a fellow officer.
Clark will also be at that retreat. Why? He knows firsthand of the tremendous support he received from COPS as an affected coworker—support that helped him to live again.
Officers interested in attending this inaugural retreat should visit www.nationalcops.org to learn more about the upcoming coworkers retreat and other programs. The registration deadline is Sept. 1, and attendance will be treated confidentially.
Be sure to attend ...
... the July 20 Law Officer webcast, Survivor Guilt & Its Effects on Coworkers, presented by Concerns of Police Survivors (COPS), with support from Streamlight Inc. Speakers Kirk Clark and Linda Gregory will explain the resources available to assist in the rebuilding of the lives of surviving families and affected coworkers. To sign up visit: www.lawofficer.com/webinars.