Most of you know that the Officer Down Memorial Page (ODMP) honors LEOs killed in the line of duty. What you might not know is that ODMP, which brings in more than 4-million unique visitors and 40-million page views annually, is operated by only two people—founder Chris Cosgriff and technical director Mike Schutz.
“Schutz has been working with me on ODMP since a week after I started it 16 years ago,” Cosgriff says. “He handles virtually everything tech-related and actually does the work of several IT specialists. It would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to hire out the work he does, but he gets everything done and keeps the site running smoothly.”
Together they run many aspects of the site, including creating and sending out LODD notifications. Depending on the circumstances and the cooperation ODMP receives from the affected department, these notifications can be sent out in less than five minutes to a full day after the incident. A lot depends on the information and how fast they receive it. “One thing I’ve noticed is that the larger the organization, the more difficult it can be. But until the names are released and the family is notified, we won’t post it,” says Cosgriff.
As you can imagine, keeping up an online memorial that’s visited by millions of LEOs can be challenging, especially for two people. “We honestly work 24/7,” Cosgriff says. “Phone, laptop, iPads and a lot of nasty looks from my wife, Jessica, when a notification comes in the middle of dinner. She understands, but it can be a challenge.”
What keeps them going? When Cosgriff founded ODMP back in 1996 as a teenager in college, he wanted to give fallen officers and their families a place to preserve their memories. This came about after reading a major article in the Washington Post that Cosgriff felt glorified a cop killer. A few days later, he read a smaller article about the murder of a Philadelphia officer. “It struck me as wrong. I sat down in my dorm room and created a memorial.”
The online memorial grew into something bigger than expected. “What really made an impact on me was a few days later when Bryant Peney, a Florida officer, was killed and his name was placed on the memorial. His twin brother sent an email to the site thanking me. I was thinking, ‘Here’s a guy who never met me and just lost his brother but he’s thanking me.’ That’s when it hit me: Remembering fallen officers is important and what I’d done matters to someone.”
But remembering officers isn’t the only goal of ODMP. It also provides resources for affected families and departments. In fact, ODMP recently partnered with the DOJ’s Public Safety Officer Benefit program to ensure that resources and benefits are made available at all levels. “We accomplish this through our online benefits guide and we do outreach to every agency that loses an officer,” Cosgriff says. “I personally call every agency that loses an officer and talk to the person who’ll be working with the family.”
The organization also attempts to reduce LODDs by partnering with different programs that concentrate on eliminating preventable ones, such as Vest for Life and Law Officer’s Below 100 initiative. To reduce the number of LODDs for 2012, Cosgriff believes we should eliminate those deaths that are preventable—wearing seatbelts, slowing down, wearing body armor and reducing the risk of heart attacks. “Sergeants and FTOs have to model this behavior and administrators need to focus on the ongoing physical fitness of their personnel. Once you do that, you can concentrate efforts on the more challenging areas,” he says.
Cosgriff and Schutz plan to use all the information ODMP gathers to better train officers so that they don’t end up on their site: “Our goal is to put ourselves out of business.”
For more information on ODMP, visit www.odmp.org.