Getting Broken in on the Job at C.O.P.S.

Guest Posting By: Brooke McKay, Marketing Coordinator, Concerns of Police Survivors, Inc.

I arrived at C.O.P.S. Spouses’ Retreat the weekend of September 18-21,
2009, at the YMCA Trout Lodge in Potosi, Missouri, after only one month
as the Marketing Coordinator for Concerns of Police Survivors.  I knew
the organization dealt with death, dying, and grief; yet I was not
prepared for what I saw. I was instantly introduced to a young widow who
was there for the first time.  She was 25 years old, just one year older
than me. While I smiled as I meet all the spouses, I could not get the
young widow out of my head.

Part of my job that weekend was to interview… that young surviving
spouse; and, after meeting her, I began to worry. “Will I say something
wrong?  What if I make her cry?”  I realized this was going to be a much
more difficult task than anticipated.

On the second day of the retreat, I pulled her aside asking if I could
speak with her. She seemed hesitant but agreed. One of the studies I had
read in the C.O.P.S.’ office cited “the fewer number of years in a
marriage, the more devastating the effects of the loss are on the
surviving spouse”.  Here I was just weeks before my first wedding
anniversary, realizing how horrible this young widow’s life must be
without her husband.

When Tiffany Cortez, Phoenix, AZ, and I sat down for the interview, I
promised to make it as easy as possible. I began the interview by asking
her to tell her story and why she is at C.O.P.S. Spouses’ Retreat.
Tiffany explained, “I am here because my husband, George, age 23, went
to work with the Phoenix, Arizona, Police Department one night and never
came back. We had spoken just 15 minutes prior and exchanged text
messages 5 minutes prior to the incident that claimed his life. I was at
home doing laundry with our two boys, who were jumping on the bed,
watching the Diamondbacks game and flipping through the channels when I
heard ‘Officer down at 83rd and Encanto’ on the T.V. My heart just
stopped. I quickly tried calling him and he didn’t answer. I just knew
it was him. I was taken to the hospital and that was when I found out
what happen. George was making an arrest; the suspects were 18 and 19
years old, boyfriend and girlfriend. It was the girl’s birthday and the
male was trying to cash a $250 fraudulent check that the female had
written. My husband got called out to the scene and was by himself. As
he had one handcuff on the male, the female tried to run out the door,
George turned to yell at her and that was when the male pulled out a gun
and shot him. He shot George twice, once in the face and again in the
shoulder,” said Tiffany.

I fought back tears and kept waiting for Tiffany to cry as she explained
her story.  She was so strong but my heart felt like it was going to
beat out of my chest and I was shaking.

“It was July 27, 2007, when George was killed. Our boys were 4 and 2
years old. George and I were high school sweethearts. We met when we
were 16,” Tiffany said with a smile.

During the interview, I couldn’t help but think of my husband and our
upcoming one year anniversary. Tiffany’s story really hit home because
we are about the same age and she is now a widow left to raise her two
children alone.

With a shaking voice I asked, “What do you think of Spouses’ Retreat so

“I love Spouses’ Retreat,” Tiffany replied, “I was so scared coming, but
I am very happy that I am here now. It’s been good to hear everybody’s
stories and get to tell yours. The feedback from everybody’s issues and
what is going on in their lives now relates to me, my loss, and my
issues. I can relate to everyone that I have met because somehow,
someway, there is a connection,” she replied.

She went on with a smile, “I now want to take my boys to C.O.P.S. Kids
Camp. If they will let me take my 5 year old, he will be almost six; I
just can’t leave him behind.” It is obvious that her two boys are her

As we finished the interview, I gave Tiffany a hug and thanked her for
speaking with me. “If you ever need anything, do not hesitate to call
me,” I said as we parted.  I hope that we will stay in touch after the

I am glad the interview went well, but it had a dramatic effect on me,
the interviewer.  I had just met an amazingly strong woman who never
shed a tear while telling of her devastated life; I was now the one
crying.   Tiffany made me realize that tomorrow is not a given and that
sometimes life is too short.  Yet she made me realize that this
organization that I’ve known for only one month does some amazing
things.  And my job is to market C.O.P.S.  It’s a task that I embrace
knowing of the good it does for survivors like Tiffany Cortez.

When I got home after the retreat, I hugged my husband, I cried in his
arms, and I told him how much he means to me.

Learn more about the work of Concerns of Police Survivors at

About Editor

John Marx was a Police Officer for twenty-three years and served as a Hostage Negotiator for nineteen of those years. He worked as a patrol officer, media liaison officer, crime prevention officer and burglary detective. Also during his career he served as administrator of his city's Community Oriented Governance initiative through the police department's Community Policing project. Today John combines his skills to consult with businesses about improving both their security and their customer service programs. John retired from law enforcement in 2002. When one of his friends, also a former police officer, committed suicide at age 38, John was devastated and began researching the problems that stress creates for police officers. He decided he needed to do something to help change those problems and he wanted to give something back to the profession that gave him so much. He started a project that has evolved into Put simply, the mission of CopsAlive is to save the lives of those who save lives! gathers information, strategies and tools to help law enforcement professionals plan for happy, healthy and successful careers, relationships and lives.
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