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‘LEDR’ Team expands to offer suicide prevention to police officers and offer support to families

Officers from across Wisconsin volunteer for the Law Enforcement Death Response (LEDR) Team to...
Officers from across Wisconsin volunteer for the Law Enforcement Death Response (LEDR) Team to help officers and family members after an officer death. The group is trying to expand to focus on more wellbeing and prevention amid a nationwide increase in officer suicides.(WBAY)
Updated: May. 11, 2021 at 5:00 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - It is National Police Week, a time to honor officers and their sacrifices, especially those who’ve died in the line of duty serving and protecting others.

Since January of 2020, nearly 500 officers have died in the line of duty across the country, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.

Nearly 230 more officers have died by suicide, according to the non-profit website B.L.U.E. Help.

A group of volunteer officers responds to help those families in Wisconsin after a death, but they want to focus more attention on mental health and preventing suicide amid a difficult time to be in law enforcement.

“This last year and a half has been one of the toughest. For me, 30-some years, it’s been the hardest year,” says Appleton Police Chief Todd Thomas.

He’s watched his own officers, and so many other friends in law enforcement, continue their dedication to policing, despite an incredibly tense atmosphere toward law enforcement.

He’s seen it take its toll.

“It was a culmination of COVID and the protests and an election year. It all came together, and our officers felt it, but our families felt it,” says Thomas. “Our families suffered a lot in the last year and a half, so we want to make sure we have resources for them, too.”

Thomas and Green Bay Police Captain Ben Allen are two members of a 15-person statewide team of volunteers who make up the Law Enforcement Death Response (LEDR) Team.

It was founded about 20 years ago in the Green Bay area to respond immediately when an officer is killed in the line of duty to offer help and support to families and other officers.

“One of the biggest pieces is law enforcement supporting law enforcement,” says Allen, who’s on the LEDR Team Board of Directors. “Really that’s what the LEDR Team is about and really kind of expanding into that peer support realm as well.”

Given the challenges law enforcement have faced for wearing the badge recently, the LEDR Team is trying to expand its work, focusing on officers’ mental wellbeing and suicide prevention because of an increase in officer suicides.

“We’re talking two to three times more officer suicides than line of duty deaths, and that’s devastating,” says Allen.

“We’ve sponsored some chaplain trainings, putting together peer support teams, helping agencies create peer support teams, try to build resiliency up on officers,” explains Thomas.

He says the team has already responded to one officer suicide this year and sees the critical need for mental health support.

At the same time, the LEDR Team knows the critical role every officers’ family plays in keeping them healthy.

To those family members, Thomas says, “We love you and we appreciate you. We don’t tell them enough. We want to make sure we take the time this week, especially this week, to thank all the family members for their support and for walking this journey with us, which has been really difficult this last year and a half.”

For more resources and links to help, the LEDR Team has several resources.

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