Critical incidents hard on allThe Wisconsin Department of Justice doesn’t keep statistics on the number of officer-related shootings that take place in the state each year. But for an occupation that deals with violence, the instances appear to be rare.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
The Wisconsin Department of Justice doesn’t keep statistics on the number of officer-related shootings that take place in the state each year. But for an occupation that deals with violence, the instances appear to be rare.
In the last 12 years, there have been four officer-related shootings in Douglas County, three of them fatal. Two took place in the city of Superior; two in rural Douglas County. The most recent occurred early Tuesday morning in the town of Gordon.
Andrew Closson, 21, was shot by Douglas County Patrol Lt. Chris Hoyt after Closson pointed a rifle at him. He died shortly after at a Duluth hospital.
“Deadly force is a dreaded issue within law enforcement whether it is something that happens to an officer or to a civilian,” said Mark Holmes, pastor of Darrow Wesleyan Church and one of the chaplains who serves local law enforcement. “The repercussions of the experience are nothing like one sees portrayed on the popular police shows on television. It is a life changing experience for all involved.”
Everyone starts second-guessing themselves, said Dawn Schulze, a counselor who serves as health services coordinator for the University of Wisconsin-Superior. Friends and family of the victim often wonder if they could have done more to help. But survivors, Schulze said, “are in no way to blame.”
It can help for them to just talk out their feelings with someone supportive. Some survivors may need professional help according to Schulze, who has done a lot of grief counseling.
Law enforcement is a violent career. Each year there are about 60,000 assaults on law enforcement officers, resulting in nearly 16,000 injuries, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. Over the last decade, an average of 160 officers a year have been killed in the line of duty.
“Police are trained to use deadly force as a last option, when certain circumstances dictate,” Holmes said. “Sometimes this decision must be made in a split second, under great stress. The officer must consider the safety of everyone involved including him/herself.”
But it can leave a lasting mark.
“Police officers are like most people. One does not take a life easily, nor do they simply shrug it off (like our TV stars do),” Holmes said. “There are issues of second and third guessing one’s decision, the regret that it had to come to the final act of all options. There are feelings of regret for the victim’s family, also for the reaction that the public will have about the officer, his family and the force at large. Seldom can or will all the facts become public, yet everyone has an opinion of what should or should not have been done.”
In this case, both the victim and the officer lived in the same small town of Gordon, population 722.
“I hope the community opens their heart to that officer,” Schulze said.
Critical incident stress debriefing counseling will be provided for Hoyt, the other deputies involved in the incident and the volunteer firefighters and medical personnel who responded to the scene, according to Douglas County Sheriff Tom Dalbec.
How long Hoyt, a 21-year veteran of the sheriff’s department, will be on leave is up to him, according to the sheriff.
“His mental state and his health and well-being is paramount and, you know, when he feels he’s ready to come back to work we’ll make that accommodation but at the same time you know if he’s not we’re certainly going to help him and do what we can to help him through this,” Dalbec said.
This New Year started in the shadow of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that left 26 dead, 20 of them children. A few hours into 2013, the Gordon incident took place.
“I think it’s really important, especially now, that people be kind to each other and gentle,” Schulze said.