LET: What prompted you to make the switch from working in health science to becoming more involved with Concerns of Police Survivors?
At the time I was the director of student affairs… and I had been involved in the chapter here in west TN and I just felt like there was so much more I could be doing, and it’s very difficult to be national president and hold a full-time job. Fortunately, I have reached my 30 years with the university; But I still was relatively young and felt that there was more that I could do. I worked with medical students, and it just wasn’t a challenge for me anymore, and I felt like there were things that I could do for COPS so my husband and I talked and we agreed that it was time for me to give up a great paying job with great benefits for a job that pays nothing and no benefits, but it’s the most rewarding job I’ve ever had.
LET: What is the relationship between C.O.P.S. and the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund at Police Week?
We work hand in hand to honor the fallen and take care of their families. We accomplish a great deal together through team work. We are all there for the same reason, to honor and support.
LET: In the past you’ve participated in the Candlelight vigil at PW. Can you tell me what that event means to you?
Last year I spoke at the Candlelight Vigil and I will speak again this year. [Last year] my topic was line of duty;. [This year’s topic]. Actually, my main topic I’m building around the theme of LE officers and why they choose to go into the line of work that they do, why they are away from their families on holidays and basically their response is, because that’s who we are and that’s what we do. And that’s what they usually tell you so that’s what I’m building it on this year.
It is an honor for me to represent our survivors at the vigil. The event sends a real message to survivors that the sacrifices of our officers will never be forgotten. We also sit side by side with other survivors from all over the country and are assured that we do not have to travel the road of grief alone.
LET: Sounds like you’re a very busy woman. What keeps you going?
My passion for Concerns of police Survivors, my respect and admiration for law enforcement officers and of course, the memory of my brother.
LET: Can you tell me about your brother?
LG: We had a three-month-old baby, we live in Memphis, Tennessee, but my hometown is Jacksonville, Florida. And we had left the night of September 26, 1971 when my son was three months old and we drove all night to introduce him to the family and they were having a cookout where my brother and sister, who were both married with families, were coming over and just so they could see my baby. And when dinnertime arrived we were cooking out back and a squad car pulled up, but it was not my brother. They had come to tell us that he had been killed and he was responding to a disturbance call at a university there, and they had found a man who met the description that they had put out and they stopped him to question him and he pulled my brother service revolver out of his holster and shot him in the heart and the temple. And he never got to see my son and that’s always been in my heart and mind that … and my son’s in law enforcement now. So it’s been difficult.
LET: What are some things the organization does to help and support survivors of officer fatalities year-round?
Of course the first is the Police Week activities where we have seminars and counselors there to assist the family members. We offer the hands-on retreats for all spouses, children, parents, in-laws, siblings and affected co-workers of fallen officers. The only expense the survivors have in attending these retreats is the cost of their travel. Many times the chapters that we have throughout the country provide financial assistance to the family members if it is needed so they can attend. We have 52 chapters in most of our states. They hold chapters meetings and social functions for survivors at the chapter level. We send newsletters that go to our survivors and families. Our survivors provide assistance to the families who are going through trials and parole hearings. And most of all, we provide peer support through phone calls, emails, etc.
And the healing doesn’t just come in one week, and you go away and you’re miraculously healed. But we find that many people bond with each other, and they exchange emails and they exchange phone numbers and addresses and they start communicating with each other and maybe a spouse is having a particularly bad day and there’s no one to reach out to, so the spouse can email or pick up the phone and call another spouse and say, “I’m having a really hard time” and the spouse understands what’s she’s experiencing because she’s already walked that road. So it’s just a lifelong of benefits that can be made available to the families. And we do offer scholarships for the children and the spouses. And you know there are so many programs that we have within the organization.
LET: How can law enforcement agencies help support C.O.P.S?
Many law enforcement agencies and officers currently support cops through payroll deduction, holding fundraising events and personal donations. We are working to increase our association with agencies and officers. We welcome opportunities to speak to our agencies to tell them about how our organization can help them.
LET: Who or what do you find inspirational?
God is my true source of inspiration. However, there are so many inspirational people in my life. Of course, my brother is my hero and his death is the reason I serve. My husband is my greatest supporter and counselor. My mother is 91 and she is such a source of encouragement to me. My sister who has suffered from debilitating illnesses all of her adult life yet she continues to find strength to go on. But I guess in the C.O.P.S. organization the survivors are my source of inspiration. When I attend National Police Week and look out over the audience and see so many family members who are there because they lost a law enforcement officer in the line of duty, I am inspired to push on through any difficult times.
LMG will complete here second term in May as National President of Concerns of Police Survivors.