'It's devastating for us as a department': Support for Milwaukee officers grieving Officer Rittner
MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- It’s been a hard eight months for Milwaukee Police Officers, but there are several outlets helping these officers with their grief, anger, and frustration.
Officer Michael Kopel works on the mental wellness team at the Milwaukee Police Department. In the next few days, he will be going to different districts to conduct group sessions and meet one-on-one with officers. He said Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonzo Morales has been very supportive to the mental wellness efforts during this difficult time.
“It's devastating for us as a department,” Kopel said. “Being the proximity, three in a few months. Everyone is grieving.”
Milwaukee Police Officers Charles Irvine Jr. and Michael Michalski both died while on duty last summer, and three losses in less than a year are taking a toll on the Milwaukee Police Department.
“That hurt us and now a few months later, we have another one. It does put the reality of how dangerous this job can be,” Kopel said.
Unfortunately, retired Oak Creek Officer Lieutenant Brian Murphy knows that all too well. He was shot 15 times while responding to the Oak Creek Sikh Temple Shooting in 2012 and is lucky to have survived.
Officer Rittner was shot and killed while he conducted a search warrant. Nationwide, at least two other officers have been killed executing a search warrant just this year.
“The person on the other side of the door, they pick if today is the day,” Brian Murphy said.
For fellow officers the feeling of ‘what if’ can be hard on them.
“The vulnerability is there,” Murphy said. “If not him then it could have been me.”
That’s where Milwaukee’s Mental Wellness team comes into play.
“It does give another avenue for us to lower that wall, to lower their defenses, let our human side come out for a bit,” Kopel said.
A national organization called ‘Concerns of Police Survivors’ or C.O.P.S. helps officers and the families of fallen officers heal. A retired Milwaukee police officer is involved in the organization. He lost his partner while on duty in the 1970s and is now helping hundreds of officers who are dealing with things like grief and survivors guilt.
“You just need some of the resources that we can provide to put into your toolbox so you can get back to work and do a better job tomorrow,” Peer Support Counselor, C.O.P.S. Patrick Monaghan said.
C.O.P.S hosts seminars and retreats; you can find more information here.