On March 31, I attended the Garden State Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.) Black & Blue Ball at Jumping Brook Country Club in Neptune. This is an event every PBA member should try to attend and support because it helps raise money for a very important group within our law enforcement family.
Garden State C.O.P.S. is a group of family members of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty. These family members have to pick up the broken pieces of their lives after losing their officer. Garden State C.O.P.S. helps each of them do that because they have all had the terrible experience in which each family has had to do the very same thing. Through that shared experience, C.O.P.S. helps families get through the tough times.
The New Jersey State PBA is committed to helping Garden State C.O.P.S., and we will be with them every step of the way. Whether it’s sponsoring the annual bus trip to Washington, D.C., for every COPS member to visit their fallen officer’s name on the wall at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, sponsoring the family retreats that C.O.P.S. hosts or helping sponsor the annual golf outing the Mercer County Conference hosts, the New Jersey State PBA is willing to assist in all endeavors to help our blue families in their times of need.
Garden State C.O.P.S. President Lisa Presslar and her executive board do a tremendous job at navigating the often emotional and complex issues regarding pensions and health benefits for the survivors of the officers who have been killed in the line of duty. Unfortunately, Lisa had a very difficult time these past few years with COVID claiming 14 NJSPBA members. Through it all, she has made a very somber matter bearable for the survivors.
On April 26, the New Jersey State PBA, in conjunction with many of our public safety partners, will be hosting “A Proper Tribute” to honor these 14 members and many others in public safety who were lost during the pandemic. During COVID, the law enforcement families could not gather for proper line-of duty funerals like we were able to do pre-COVID.
Thanks to NJ State PBA President Pat Colligan, who has said numerous times that the members who were lost to COVID did not get a proper burial, they are now getting the proper tribute they deserve, as only law enforcement can do. The tribute will take place at the Epic Church in Sayreville, beginning at 11 a.m. The law enforcement community will gather to pay a proper tribute to those members of public safety in a nondenominational service commemorating those first responders.
Since the March issue of NJ Cops Magazine, we have lost two more members to suicide. As many of you are aware, we are bringing the mental health and wellness of law enforcement officers to the forefront of our members’ day-today lives. The New Jersey State PBA has created countless programs for our members to seek help, and we urge everyone to utilize these programs. We have gone to great strides to reduce the stigma of seeking metal health assistance through our NJSPBA Peer Response Team, but we are still losing officers to suicide. Unfortunately, it appears that, too often, we receive the horrific news that one of our own has taken his or her life. In each incident, it seems those closest to the member had no idea why or did not see the early warning signs.
Please, if you are reading this and you’re in a crisis or need someone to talk to, call Luke Sciallo, the chair of the NJSPBA Peer Assistance Team, or myself. Or call anyone you can trust to listen to you. I am sure that any one of your friends, family members or co-workers that you trust would rather listen to you now and try to help you than sit in front of your closed casket because you thought you had nowhere to go or no one to talk to.
There are people out there to help you if you are in a crisis. Please call them or call Cop-2-Cop at 866-267-2267 or Copline at 800-267-5463. There are so many of us who want nothing more than to answer your call.