MILWAUKEE — Community members gathered at Cathedral Square Park to remember Milwaukee Police Officer Thomas Kline Monday afternoon.
Officer Kline had been on the force at MPD for 19 years. He died by suicide on Sept. 1, 2020.
"He was an amazing human being," said Beth Weirick. "He was the epitome of a true public servant who really wanted to make Milwaukee and the community the best it could be."
"I'd call him up, I'd text him and just tell him I needed him for whatever it was," said Teri Regano.
Weirick and Regano said they knew Officer Kline for years through the Business Improvement Districts. As a business owner on Brady Street, Regano said Officer Kline was her community liason. They said he was funny, sincere and dedicated.
"He did a tremendous amount of work in helping businesses here in downtown Milwaukee," Mayor Tom Barrett said. "He did a tremendous amount of work in dealing with the homeless population."
"I often think now that the reason he was really able to connect with a lot of people, our citizens who are living in the streets with mental health and addiction issues, is because Tom himself was struggling with some mental health issues and depression," Weirick said. "And I think he would want us to talk about that."
According to Blue H.E.L.P., an organization that raises awareness about mental health in law enforcement, a record 239 officers died by suicide in 2019.
The Wisconsin Law Enforcement Death Response Team reports eight members of Wisconsin law enforcement died in the line of duty since 2017—21 died by suicide in that same time.
"I never, ever for a minute imagined he would take his own life, ever," Weirick said. "And I think that's a lesson for all of us."
"We’re all here today going, if we only knew, if I knew I could have," said Officer Kline's former Captain, Stephen Basting. "But, you know, it’s not just law enforcement and the military and the fire service, it’s somehow a sign of weakness, and it’s not."
TMJ4 News spoke on the phone with Officer Kline's mother and father, who each said they are proud of their son.
"People around you, even if they don’t appear it, they can really be harboring some serious pain," said Milwaukee Fire Chief Aaron Lipski. "They can have a lot of weight on their shoulders and be standing upright still. Let's really, really go out of our way, if you even suspect anything, to just take that temperature check on someone. How are you doing? Are you OK?"