Home / World News / Burst of cop deaths in short span rattles law officers, but leaders say training and support services keep them going – The Denver Post

Burst of cop deaths in short span rattles law officers, but leaders say training and support services keep them going – The Denver Post

The turn of the year has been marked by the deaths of three Colorado sheriff’s deputies, each shot and killed in the line of duty.

Their deaths add to a deep roster of men and women in blue killed while on the job, deaths that first responders across the state say they feel personally. But this burst of shooting deaths has had an especially acute impact as they return to duty.

“We’re not like a private-business organization. When a tragedy occurs, they can shut the doors for a day or two to regroup,” Aurora Police Chief Nick Metz said. “We don’t have time to do that. We have to go right back to work.”

Since record-keeping began in 1869 in Colorado, 175 officers and one K-9 officer have been fatally shot in the state, according to data from the Officer Down Memorial Page. The data do not include the deaths of employees of for-profit law enforcement companies, such as the armed Regional Transportation District security officer killed outside Union Station a year ago.

On average, nearly a year elapses between officer-shooting deaths. There have been cases of two fatal shootings that have occurred close together in time — even on the same day — but deaths in three separate incidents in such a short span is rare.

Douglas County Deputy Zackari Parrish was shot and killed Dec. 31. Then, just over three weeks later, on Jan. 24, Adams County Deputy Heath Gumm was killed. On Monday, 12 days after Gumm’s death, El Paso County Deputy Micah Flick was fatally shot.

It has been 100 years since there were fatal shootings of three officers each of which was separated by a month or less.

After Flick was killed, Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Shrader sent a letter to his staff and deputies. In it, he noted the law enforcement community is hurt when an officer dies. But when three officers die in such a short time, they may lose perspective, become discouraged, get angry or have doubts. He told them that they must not lose their way.

“They’re still people,” Shrader said in an interview. “People with all the emotions that everybody faces and when these assaults — murders actually — have happened with such frequency here recently, I just felt it was important to make sure people know that the role that they have protecting the public is important and it’s valued and together we need to be strong.”

Many officers can identify with those who died. Parrish, Gumm and Flick were family men, leaving behind wives and, in two cases, kids. Both Gumm and Flick were responding to typical calls — a domestic disturbance and car theft, respectively. All three were wearing  a bulletproof vest.

Chris Johnson, executive director of County Sheriffs of Colorado, said the shootings are likely in the back of officers’ heads, potentially making them more cautious. But after so much training, officers learn to compartmentalize while on the job.

And although that works for the immediate, Johnson said officers need to talk with a family member, close friend or counselor. Otherwise, that compartmentalization can come to haunt them.

“We’re really trying to be proactive right now, as I’m sure many other departments in the region are doing, in making sure our officers know, and their families know, what kind of resources and support is available to them,” Chief Metz said.

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