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Athletics brings former KCPD officer purpose, 'special bond' after medical retirement

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Class 26 M2M
Class 26 M2M
Posted at 5:56 PM, Mar 10, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-11 15:48:30-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo — Former Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department Ofc. Kathryn Hwang is taking the success of her future into her own hands.

Hwang sustained a traumatic brain injury, causing her to medically retire from KCPD. Since then, she has begun the road to recovery and self-discovery.

“The injury is hard. I think the loss of a profession, the loss of friends, the loss of a potential future you might have had with something — I think that’s extremely difficult," Hwang said.

When Hwang was a child, she dreamed of being an officer.

Years later, she enrolled in the police academy in May 2002. Hwang started in KCPD as a patrol officer and was anxious to become an undercover detective in the Drug Enforcement Unit.

She was confident she had found her purpose. But Hwang's aspirations were dashed in an instant in June 2003.

“You remember things in flashbacks — kind of short, like two-second bursts of what happened on scene. You remember smells,” Hwang said. “Other than that, just trying to defend myself and making sure that my handgun wasn’t coming out of my holster to be shot with my own gun.”

Hwang and her partner were ambushed while ticketing a vehicle. During the attack, she sustained a front-to-back closed-head injury.

“It’s devastating,” Hwang said. “You have to have it some place in yourself to keep going because somewhere down the line, someone is going to pick you up and give you a lifeline, and that’s where you start climbing back out of that hole.”

Hwang's seizures led to her inevitable medical retirement. She was just shy of earning additional stripes to become a sergeant.

As the only Asian female on the force back then, she would have also become the first Asian to make the rank.

“I will say that I’ve had difficulties being an Asian American female growing up,” Hwang said. “I’m very proud of the chief right now. She made chief — we finally have a female chief.”

Through her loneliness and struggles, Hwang credits the Adaptive Training Foundation in Dallas, Texas, as her saving grace.

The nonprofit provides free, holistic personalized training programs for veterans and first responders with traumatic injuries from all over the country.

The nine-week program consists of physical training, mindfulness, breathing exercises and community workshops.

“I have some people who come in and maybe their goal is they want to make the Paralympic Games, and then you have other people whose goal is — I just want to be able to pick my son up,” said Josh Sager, programs manager.

For the first time in years, Hwang says she felt she had a community.

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“For most people, especially getting out of law enforcement and getting out of the military, that’s the thing that we’re all searching for the most,” Sager said.

Through training sessions, Hwang also met current KCPD Ofc. Tyler Moss who suffered a traumatic brain injury on the job in 2020. He was shot in the head while pursuing a suspect on foot during his patrol shift.

“We connected on that traumatic injury but also connected on being police officers,” Moss said. “It’s a special bond that we’ll have for the rest of our lives together.”

Hwang says she still continues to deal with the complications of her injury. But even at her lowest of lows, she accepts the struggle as it allows her to appreciate the highs.