Tying a ribbon to support C.O.P.S.

As National Police Week begins May 15, an initiative in Newton aims to salute the sacrifices of law enforcement officers, as well as the families who support those badge-wearing men and women.

Every year, between 140 and 160 police officers are killed in the line of duty, according to Concerns of Police Survivors, or C.O.P.S. When an officer dies, they leave behind families that face challenges and concerns after their loved one's loss of life, said Holy Cross Lutheran Church Rev. Paul Fitzpatrick, who also serves as a Newton Police Department chaplain.

To support and remember families of fallen law enforcement officers, C.O.P.S. created a national campaign where blue ribbons are displayed on vehicles during National Police Week, May 15-21.

Fitzpatrick brought that campaign to Newton when he challenged city leaders at recent City Council meeting.

"These are simple ribbons, I'm asking that you tie them on your automobiles to let the community know we support our police officers and their families," Fitzpatrick said as he challenged city leaders May 3.

Newton Police Chief Don Brown said that, in recent memory, NPD has experienced no instance where an officer was killed in the line of duty. That doesn't mean the city's officers aren't mindful of sacrifices made by their police peers.

"We could fall victim at any time," Brown said. "This is a way for us to remember these men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice and the families that have to live with that as well."

NPD officer David Coffman said it is important for law enforcement officers to have an organization such as C.O.P.S. According to its mission statement, C.O.P.S. provides resources to assist in the rebuilding of the lives of surviving families and affected co-workers of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.

"In a tragedy, you need somebody you can count on to get the support and help you need," Coffman said.

As an NPD chaplain, Fitzpatrick has accompanied officers on ride-alongs where he's realized the reality of life-or-death situations law enforcement officers often face.

"It sounds like an easy job, but it is not," he said, adding that any officer could be killed during duty, any time. "What happens in a city as big as New York City or Philadelphia, it is 'normal' to know an officer lost their life on a daily basis, but it can still happen in place like Newton.

"We have life because, quite simply, they may not," he said. "We remember what those officers did, and what they do for us. What we can do for them is at least show them a little support."

Brown adds that all police officers' families endure challenges related to a law enforcement career.

"We all have families that make sacrifices every day," he said. "The life of a police officer is certainly stressful, and it is stressful on the family as well as the officers."

Brown said that next week NPD vehicles will display blue ribbons tied to police vehicles to "memorialize and remember fallen officers, as well as to recognize them and their families."

Next week, NPD plans to have ribbons available at its downtown headquarters and in Newton City Hall as well. Ribbons are also available at The Observer News Enterprise office at 309 North College Avenue in Newton.

Fitzpatrick said citizens can obtain a ribbon from him by contacting him at Holy Cross Lutheran Church at 612 South College Avenue, or by calling 446-2297.

For more information about C.O.P.S. visit www.nationalcops.org.

"We are letting people know we support our police officers because they put their lives on the line for us," Fitzpatrick said.