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Reflections on 27 years of serving C.O.P.S.

Editor's Note: We have all suffered the loss of a friend in law enforcement. For nearly three decades, when one these warriors falls, Suzie Sawyer has stepped in to positively impact the lives of fellow-LEOs, friends, and families. During Police Week last month, Suzie celebrated her retirement, and today, she offers her thoughts in the featured column below. Suzie’s legacy will live on, continuing to provide great support to those families, co-workers, and agencies that have been forced to accept the ultimate demand on the law enforcement profession: losing an officer in the line of duty. Suzie Sawyer has touched the lives of more law enforcement officers and their families than anyone can imagine. We at PoliceOne thank her for her incredible service, and wish her health and happiness for many years in "retirement."

By Suzie Sawyer
Executive Director, C.O.P.S. (ret.)

I often find myself wondering what I would have done with my life if Buzz Sawyer had been a trash man. I guess I’d be into solid waste issues, recycling, etc. I was blessed to find my niche in his profession... law enforcement. I leave my 27-year position as Executive Director with Concerns of Police Survivors feeling a great sense of pride, knowing I have left a great legacy to help the law enforcement families who are yet to become members of C.O.P.S. Who could ask for more?

My years of service to law enforcement actually began before the birth of Concerns of Police Survivors. In 1982, I initiated the National Peace Officers Memorial Service, which is held every May 15th on the United States Capitol grounds. I planned ten of those Memorial Services and saw attendance go from 125 individuals in 1982 to more than 12,000 in 1991. I was an incorporator of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund and have served as its secretary since 1982. In 1984, meeting the wishes of ten surviving law enforcement spouses, I co-founded Concerns of Police Survivors, a national grief support organization for the surviving families of America’s fallen law enforcement officers. Today, C.O.P.S. represents 15,000 surviving families, has 52 chapters nationwide, and there is an affiliate chapter of C.O.P.S. in the United Kingdom.

During National Police Week 2011, I received the Distinguished Service Award and was given the title of Executive Director Emeritus from C.O.P.S. I received a “Lifetime Achievement Award” from NLEOMF, and the U.S. Capitol Police Ceremonial Unit flew an American flag over the Capitol on May 15th in recognition of my service.

I would like to share the high and low points of my career:

Biggest Disappointment: That C.O.P.S. was not immediately embraced by all of law enforcement. After 27 years, there are still major law enforcement organizations that do little to promote the organization that has done more for America’s law enforcement survivors than any other group.

Darkest Day in C.O.P.S.’ History: August 22, 2006, when two Indiana law enforcement officers were killed doing a fundraising bicycle ride to benefit Indiana C.O.P.S. Chapter.

Toughest Issue to Accept: That in 2011 some law enforcement survivors still have to fight for death benefits on both the Federal and State levels.

What Inspires Me: The lyrics from “What a Feeling”: “Take your passion and make it happen.”

Most Cherished Moment: When kids arrived at the first C.O.P.S. Kids Summer Camp in 1993 and I knew we would give them wonderful childhood memories that they would remember for their entire life.

Most Memorable Kudo for C.O.P.S.: At the inaugural 2010 Affected Co-Workers Retreat, when co-workers were asked, “Why did you come here for help?” One participant answered, “We already talked about this… we have seen what C.O.P.S. has done for our partners’ surviving families and we TRUST C.O.P.S.!”

Most Difficult Task to Accomplish: Leaving a job I have loved for 27 years with a smile on my face, laughing, and dancing my way into retirement during National Police Week 2011 while the people I have grown to love shed tears!

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