By Andreas Rivera
AMERICAN FORK, Utah — Few wives go through the experience of having to send their police officer husband off to work in the morning, and even fewer live through the reality that their loved one is no longer coming home.
Erin Francom lives that reality and now works to help console and heal others who have gone through similar tragedies.
With help from the national board of Concerns of Police Survivors (COPS), Francom is beginning a Utah chapter to create an emotional support system. The group held a preliminary meeting at Rib City in American Fork on Friday.
"I'm at a point in my life where I'm ready to talk about it and to take what I've learned to help others," Francom said.
Francom's husband, Ogden police officer Jared Francom, was shot and killed Jan. 4, 2012 after the serving of a search warrant turned into a deadly shootout.
Francom said she had a small support net to help her deal with the tragedy, but nothing like what COPS offers, which she wishes had been around during her time of need.
"Our goal is to rebuild shattered lives, which is done through emotional support," said Tami McMillan, president of the Northern California branch of COPS, who was in Utah to help Francom set up the local chapter.
The group offers programs to help families of fallen law enforcement officers with things that money can't solve.
"Anybody can write a check," McMillan said. "What we do is much more personable."
One program the group offers is a kids camp, where the children of those families can go to be with others who can relate to their challenges and losses.
"The children of fallen officers can't talk with other kids about it," McMillan said.
Other things the group does for families include counseling, support at trials and writing parole board letters.
Another goal of the organization is to educate working police officers to stay on top of their financial affairs and make sure that in the event of their passing, their families are taken care of.
"A lot of the times officers won't update their HR paperwork, which can cause problems years down the road," McMillan said.
Francom is also a member of Police Wives of Utah, which began as a result of the Jan. 4, 2012 tragedy in Ogden.
"It's been really nice to come out and help others, using what I know and as a result it's really helped myself out too," Francom said.
Francom said she has reached out to the family of Draper police officer Derek Johnson, who was shot and killed last September.
She said she will wait to contact the family of Utah County's Sgt. Cory Wride, who was killed in January.
"You need to give them time to mourn on their own," Francom said. "No two deaths are the same, and everybody mourns differently."
Francom said she's been able to gather national support for her group.
On Friday, in conjunction with the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund, the group set up a screening of the new documentary of "Heroes Behind the Badge: Sacrifice and Survival," narrated by actor Vincent D'Onofrio of Law and Order fame.
D'Onofrio made an appearance at the restaurant, owned by his sister, and signed autographs at the screening, Francom said.
Proceeds of the event went to the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund and to help fund the Pleasant Grove Police Department, which has been in need of new radios.
Francom said that for obvious reasons, this cause is very dear to her and one she plans to take further and further to be there for others, to hold their hands and be the foundation of support she wished she had during that dark time.
2014 the Standard-Examiner
McClatchy-Tribune News Service