C.O.P.S. aims to support loved ones of fallen officers
It's a somber but supportive gathering for parents of law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty.
The group C.O.P.S., which stands for Concerns of Police Survivors, has 37,000 survivors. The group offers support for the remaining parents, spouses, siblings, children, relatives and co-workers of fallen law enforcement officers.
Mr. and Mrs. Will Tonn lost their son Officer Kevin Tonn in January 2013. Officer Tonn was shot and killed in California, while responding to a call. That's when the Tonn's met the group C.O.P.S.
"They were in our home the day after Kevin was killed to hold our hand, literally," says Will Tonn.
When asked about dealing with his son’s death years later, Tonn says it never gets any easier.
"You know, we get it if somebody says 'I'm having-it's been 5, 10 or 20 years-and I'm still having a hard time with it," says Will Tonn.
Linda Craig helped form the Arkansas chapter in 2002, after losing her husband Arkansas State Trooper Tom Craig in the line of duty in December 2000. He was hit by a car during an ice storm.
This year, Linda Craig also helped coordinate the parent retreat at the 4-H Center in Ferndale.
"We try to provide the peer support, the counseling support, we have retreats, we offer scholarships," says Craig.
The group also makes gifts like flag boxes for members. Families feel the support is invaluable in helping them grieve and cope.
"I was mad as hell after he got killed for a year," says Johnny Blyler. C.O.P.S. helped Johnny Blyler deal with anger after his son Deputy Joshua Blyler died following a car accident in 2004 in Florida.
"It kept me from killing somebody, ok?” says Johnny Blyler. “Because I was mad. It got me under control."
While it's an organization no one ever desires to join, members do become family, brought together by tragedy.
The group started in 1984, and now has 50 chapters nationwide. Click here to learn more.