Chaplaincy services important as MPD grieves fallen officer

Posted at 6:05 PM, Jun 11, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-11 19:07:10-04

Those who knew and worked with fallen Milwaukee Police Officer Charles Irvine Jr. continue to grieve. 

Irvine Jr., 23, was a graduate of Northwest Lutheran School in Milwaukee and, later, Milwaukee Lutheran High School. 

Dennel Meinzer, who was the Administrative Assistant at Northwest Lutheran for a period of time in which Irvine Jr. was a student there, said she remembers him well. 

“He was just a sweet kid,” Meinzer said. “He did everything with a smile. That’s one thing I’ll always remember about him: his smile,” she added. 

Meinzer said Irvine Jr. was very compassionate even as a young boy. She said it’s no surprise he became a Milwaukee Police Officer. 

“At school, he just wanted to help people,” Meinzer said. “So it was very understandable that this was something he would do.” 

Irvine Jr.’s death shook Meinzer. It’s also shaken his former co-workers at the Milwaukee Police Department. 

George Papachristou, a longtime MPD officer who currently volunteers about 20 hours per week as the department’s chaplain, said the mood around MPD has been “very somber” since Irvine Jr.’s death Thursday night. 

“I wouldn’t expect it to be anything else, to be honest with you,” he said. 

He said, even in a police department as large as Milwaukee’s, everyone feels the pain of an officer’s death. 

“We have a lot of bureaus and districts that are affected at different levels,” Papachristou said. “But the end result is everyone feels that loss as brother officer who has gone down.” 

“It brings back memories to some who have lost in the past, but also the stark realities of what this job is all about,” he added. 

As a chaplain, Papachristou said he sits with offers in need and is a willing listener if they need to discuss something. 

He also offers spiritual support, should they want it, which can complement other support services like peer support groups and the department’s early intervention program. 

“We kind of make a triage assessment, like a medic would in the field of battle, and determine, is there something here where this officer might need additional professional care besides chaplaincy?" Papachristou said. “Might they need mental health? Some peer support or another resource that can help them?” 

Papachristou said he’s been providing such support services at MPD districts across the city as needed in recent days. 

"The message is to come together in solidarity and take care of each other the best way possible," Papachristou said. 

He said Irvine Jr.’s family has been assigned a liaison officer to help them with the tough task ahead. 

“We have an officer assigned to walk that family through every step of the process,” Papachristou said. “A law enforcement death and all the associated arrangements that must take place are overwhelming - even for a department. So for a family, you can only imagine how difficult that is.” 

He added a liaison officer has also been assigned to Officer Matthew Schulze and his family.

Schulze, who was also in the vehicle, survived the crash that killed Irvine Jr.

The two officers were pursuing a reckless driver. 

The families of both officers have asked for privacy. 

“Prayer, for both of these families, is what’s needed and requested,” Papachristou said.