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Metro groups help families, first responders impacted mentally, financially by critical incidents

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Posted at 5:58 PM, Mar 07, 2024

KANSAS CITY, Mo — When a police officer is killed on the job, special care groups make sure families are taken care of and impacted officers get the support they need.

The Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department's Employee Wellness Section was created in 2017 after federal legislation recognized the need for police officer wellness programs.

Robert Blehm, supervisor of the wellness section and a former homicide detective, says he and his two colleagues offer year-round services that focus on mental, physical, spiritual and financial health.

One important program is critical incident debrief sessions where officers get together in a room following a tragedy and process their experiences with a psychologist.

“We did seven of those for the Chiefs parade,” said Blehm.

In some high-profile incidents, they are available to help officers across the metro area.

Blehm says while the average citizen may be exposed to two to three critical incidents in their lifetimes, most police officers experience close to 950 critical incidents over the course of their careers.

“We’re all doing the same job. We may wear slightly different color uniforms or work for a different municipality, or state, or federal agency, but ultimately, when one officer gets hurt or killed, it hurts all of us,” said Blehm. “There’s also a part where an officer recognizes, 'Hey, this could happen to me. This just happened over there.”

The Kansas City Metropolitan Crime Commission’s SAFE Fund focuses on taking off the financial burden of families who have lost a loved one in the line of duty.

Jan Zimmerman a former Raymore Police Chief and the program's director, said the benefit increased this year for Officer Cody Allen’s family.

“I met with Cody’s wife on Saturday,” said Zimmerman. “It had been $25,000 to a SAFE family for the last eight years and so looking at the change in cost of living and certainly how everything costs more now than it did eight years ago, that benefit was increased to $40,000.”

Zimmerman says while that check has already been delivered, they are always accepting donations for future emergencies. Donations also could go to the group's holiday disbursements to help families with children.

If donating money is not an option, Blehm says a small gesture of kindness like dropping off food at a police station or thanking an officer also goes a long way.

You can donate to the SAFE fund on the Kansas City Metropolitan Crime Commission website.