Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.) has more than doubled in membership in the past 10 years. The average used to be between 140-160 officers die in the line of duty each year, however, COVID, deaths from 9/11 cancer, and increased violence has made that average inaccurate. Our membership has now reached over 65,000 survivors nationwide. With the recent passing of the Public Safety Officer Support Act of 2022, the number of survivors served grows even more rapidly.
On August 16, 2022, President Biden signed Public Law 117-172, the Public Safety Officer Support Act of 2022. The unanimous passing of this law recognizes that the traumas suffered by law enforcement officers affects them mentally and at times ends with suicide. This law now provides public safety officer death benefits for the families of law enforcement who die by suicide or are totally disabled, after taking an action to bring about their death while on duty, and if it meets the criteria established within the law and occurred on or after January 1, 2019.
The purpose of the C.O.P.S. organization has always been, and continues to be, to support surviving family members and co-workers of law enforcement officers who die in the line of duty. As we receive more information from the PSOB office on how this law is interpreted for federal benefits, C.O.P.S. will begin educating law enforcement agencies and our 55 chapters across the nation on how to respond and best serve surviving family members and co-workers affected by suicide.
A common phrase we say is “Grief is grief.” However, grief can be very different when the circumstances of the death are very different. Whether the death is felonious or accidental, natural (COVID/heart attack) or suicide; each officer leaves behind survivors who loved and cared for them and they need our support. It is better late than never to now be able to serve all survivors through the amazing programs and services that C.O.P.S. has provided for almost 40 years.
C.O.P.S. Executive Director Dianne Bernhard said, “C.O.P.S. and Survivors of Blue Suicide (SBS) are working together to ensure all survivors who have lost an officer receive support for their grief. There is no deadline for grief to pass and we appreciate our partners helping us provide support for as long as survivors need us.”
SBS Executive Director Shelley Jones will now work with C.O.P.S. through this transition. Education and outreach will be key, as the first interactions after the death can impact survivors for the rest of their lives. Shelley has provided an article for this forum which offers more information and perspective of survivors of suicide.
If you should have questions regarding line-of-duty death response and how this law impacts the operation of C.O.P.S. moving forward, please visit www.concernsofpolicesurvivors.org. Dates and locations for programs for all survivors in 2023 will be announced soon.