Seattle's blue angel
by Seattle PD Officer John Abraham
“04:30 hours, my telephone rings at home.”
That's how it all started. When I arrived at HMC I confirmed that they would be enroute to Seattle as soon as the fog lifted. About two hours after arriving at HMC I was told that the wounded officer was airborne and would be landing at SeaTac. I contacted the Port of Seattle Police Department and arranged for them to stand by and assist the Medivac aircraft and the ambulance to get them to HMC safely and in a timely fashion. About two hours after that I was told that the family, consisting of the wife, father, stepmother and brother, were airborne but it was not sure which airport they could land at. I again arranged for The Port of Seattle P.D. to stand by in case they flew into SeaTac. I then arranged for two traffic cars and two motorcycles from the Seattle Police Traffic section to stand by at Boeing Field. I contacted The Washington State Patrol and asked them to stand by at Pain Field in Everett. I had all three of the major airfields covered and they finally arrived at Pain Field. The WSP brought them to HMC. I had radio contact two of the Hospital Response Team members to assist with transportation and on scene support for the family. I contacted Chief Kerlikowske, Assistant Chief Metz, Assistant Chief Bailey, and brought them up to speed on what had happened and what steps were being taken to assist the family. I contacted the East Precinct Sgt. and confirmed arrangements for a 24/7 guard to be stationed outside Officer Kralicek's hospital room.
That was just the beginning. We arranged for accommodations for the entire family and any officers that arrived from Coeur d'Alene. We brought in water and food for everyone. We then coordinated the situation at HMC and kept the investigating team in Coeur d'Alene updated with Officer Kralicek's progress. The Port of Seattle P.D. picked up and transported two Coeur d' Alene officers that arrived after the fog lifted from the Seattle Area. The WSP stood by in case other transports needed to be made. As the first day worn on...we had five agencies involved in this tragedy and every one of them were willing to supply whatever resources that we needed. We are now in week three and all those services are still available.
How did this program all start?
It all started in 1990 when I was on the Guild Board of Directors (Union). We received a call from a narcotics Captain in New York City. He said the one of his Sergeants, Gary Lavelle, was in Swedish Hospital recovering from a bone marrow transplant. He said that Gary was in dire need of seeing a uniform. He was depressed and to see another cop would bring his spirits up. I volunteered to go see him. We developed quite a friendship that lasted until his death in 1998. From Gary I learned how lonely it was to spend up to 125 to 150 days recovering from the effects of a bone marrow transplant. I promised him that if I knew of an officer or his family member coming to Seattle for this painful treatment, that I would assist them in any way I could. Since then I have assisted 29 other police officers or their family members who have had to come to Seattle for leukemia bone marrow treatment.
Initially all the time and money came out of my pocket. But then people started hearing about what I was doing and offered their assistance as well. The authors, Ann Rule and J.A. Jance both committed their total collection of books for any family that would like to read them. Restaurants volunteered their services at reduced rates or in some cases free. Major hotels in the city offered their services at reduced prices. One chain, The Holiday Inn Express and The Holiday Inn Seattle offer accommodations to the family, of an officer seriously injured in the line of duty, free for the first three days and then a reduced rate after that.
After about two years of assisting leukemia patients, I convinced the Guild Board of Directors that it was necessary to establish a fund to help me better assist our out of town bothers and sisters and their families. I gave the program the name of “The Help the Officer Fund". They agreed and a $1,500 a year fund was included in the yearly budget. Since then other officers and citizens have contributed to the fund by putting on fund raisers and just contributing funds and time to help others.
As a result of my involvement with hospitals, doctors and nurses I started getting calls from Harborview Medical Center and Swedish Hospital, whenever an officer, from any local agency, was admitted as a result of an on duty, and in some cases off duty, serious injury. I became the contact person for departments and family members whenever one of these situations arose.
My Command staff soon realized that if they need someone at the hospital to keep them informed about what was going on and someone to make sure that the family of the fallen officer taken care of, to contact me because I would already be there. At one point...Lt. Dick Belshay arranged for me to get a department pager so radio could contact me when I was needed at HMC or anyone in the command staff could page me for updates and information. I now have a department phone, my personal cell phone and the department pager so I can always be reached.
Two years ago Assistant Chief Metz asked me who was trained to do what I do, at the hospitals, should I not be available. I told him no one. I did tell him that there were several people who had expressed interest in assisting me but that I had not made any demands on them. He asked me if I could put a team together to response to any hospital should an officer or an officer’s family member be seriously injured. I said I could and "The Hospital Response Team" was born.
Currently there are three Lead HRT Members. Myself, Brenda Burrows and Cindy Granard. There are three assistants, Ron Smith, Elizabeth Ellis and Cricket Bonner. I have transportation officers in Susie Wong and Ken Naper (just brought on board) from the traffic unit. I have a traffic Sergeant, Don Smith (no relation to this Ron Smith) who can and will arrange for any kind of transportation issues and many other situations when I need them. I have contacts in every local agency and specific officers, Sergeants, Lieutenants, Captains, Majors and Chiefs that will lend any support they can to assist the family members and the officers of the agency affected.
Many times I have been told what a great job I do and the fantastic service that Seattle provides in their, the families', time of need. Well I feel that they are partially correct. It is Seattle that comes through in the time of need. From the Mayors office down to the citizens of this city. This program works because people care. If I didn't have the support and trust of my entire command staff I would not be able to do the things I do. I cannot tell you the number of times, from every Mayor since Charlie Royer, that the Mayors office has said " Anything you need John.... Just ask!"
There is someone very special that I need to recognize as someone very significant in this program. That is my wife Joan. When that phone rings she is right there scrambling to get the things I need. When she hears that it is something serious she is up and organizing. The coffee pot is put on and a thermos is made ready. She will put together a protein drink and get out my vitamins so I am firing on all eight cylinders. She starts making me a lunch and packing it in my police motorcycle. She is my right arm and my best friend. She is there when this starts to show signs of wearing me down. She will warn me if it is obvious to her that I am getting too close to the situation. She is there when I need to talk to someone outside the event and to bounce my ideas off her. Like my command staff.... she is always there when I need her. Thanks Doll!
From 1990 until present day... I cannot tell you how many times I have assisted fallen officers. I cannot tell you how many officers have gone home or how many funerals I have attended. I do know that my heart goes out to each and every one of them and their families. I know that as long as I am able, the Seattle Police Department and I will be there for them and their family. And although I always hope and pray that it doesn't ring... when it does...I'll be there to answer..."
“John...This is Gary in radio.... are you awake?"
Editors Note: If your PD is interested in setting up a similar program contact John below.
|Back to previous page|