Annual COPS Retreat for Families of Slain Maryland Officers

MD-COPS retreat benefits survivors_2x candles

Dorchester Banner/Gloria Rojas
Jim Hoppa of WBOC, Sue Nickerson Executive Director of COPS, Baltimore City Police Commissioner Kevin Davis and David Mitchell, Director of Public Safety and Chief of Police for University of Maryland College Park, light candles in respect for fallen officers.

CAMBRIDGE — “He wanted to be a police officer since he was a little boy. He would say ‘Mom, follow that police car. I want to see what they’re doing. I would have to explain that I couldn’t go as fast as a police car. Every holiday, we would give him trucks, ambulances, police cars, fire engines, and if they didn’t have sirens, he would make the noises himself.” Beverly Chandler of Silver Spring tells her son’s story with a mixture of pride and sorrow in her voice. She says, “Life will never be the same, but with the support of my church and friends, and the people from C.O.P.S., who were there on the very first day last January, we are not forgotten. Some days are not good days, some are better, and their calls and newsletters and this retreat show us that we are part of a group, we are not forgotten.”

The retreat at the Chesapeake Hyatt Resort for the familes of officers killed in the line of duty takes place every year. Besides Officer Craig Chandler of the Baltimore Police Department, the families represent Officer Brennan Rabain of Prince George’s County Police, and Officer Noah Leotta of the Montgomery County Police Department. Their survivors, including parents, children, siblings, and fiancées, arrived at the Chesapeake Hyatt Resort in Cambridge on Friday evening for the special weekend, arranged by the Maryland branch of C.O.P.S. The letters stand for Concerns of Police Survivors.

Teresa Welch first came to the program in 2010 when her brother, Officer Tommy Jensen, died. She needed support because she and her brother had shared responsibility for their parents. Now she found herself needing to support them in their grief and needing to learn how to cope for herself. C.O.P.S. stepped in and provided support. Now six years later, Teresa is there to help others, and she is committed to the organization that helped her handle the loss of her only brother.

The weekend program includes counseling sessions and activities, and opportunities for meeting and making friends with families who have suffered the same loss. For children, there’s swimming, horseback riding and a trampoline park. For men, there’s skeet shooting in Mandela. For women, there’s Chef Tom Olsen and his Iron Chef Challenge. The Hyatt’s personable Executive Chef supplies a variety of ingredients and a lot of laughter and he challenges the women to make a unique dish and name it. The winners get a prize and everyone gets a taste and a memory.

The big event is the memorial service and dinner. Everyone gathered for the ceremony, hosted by WBOC’s Jimmy Hoppa of “Delmarva Life.” He told the Banner, “It’s a privilege to serve the C.O.P.S. organization in efforts to support the families of fallen officers. I’m humbled by the courage of those behind the badge, and those who support them.” Hoppa’s own son is a police officer in Oklahoma City. The ceremony included the lighting of candles as memorials to Officer Noah Leotta, Officer Brennan Robain and Officer Craig Chandler.

The main speaker was Commissioner Kevin Davis, who was named head of Baltimore City’s PD last summer after the days of riot and disruption. He is a force behind a bill which will have hearings next month in Annapolis in both the Maryland House and the Senate. The bill proposes jail time for anyone carrying a loaded gun.

Sue Nickerson, the executive director of C.O.P.S., looks back on her 10-year involvement with the organization. She became active in the group after her son Michael was killed. “I can remember only one year when there was no new family. As for next year, we already are working with two families.” Two weeks ago, in Harford County, Md., two Sheriff’s Deputies were killed by an assailant. Officer Patrick Daly, a 30-year veteran, and Officer Mark Logsden were gunned down on Feb. 10.
They leave new survivors behind.

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