The Milwaukee Police Department is holding a benefit to raise money for the families of the fallen officers in the last year.
DOC's Commerce Smokehouse near 4th and Wells is hosting the benefit for the Milwaukee Police Association Fallen Heroes fund. The money raised will help send family and friends to Washington during National Police Week, where Officers Charles Irvine Jr. and Michael Michalski will be honored along with other officers killed in the line of duty last year.
"To lose one officer in a year is quite devastating," Officer Mitch Ross with Milwaukee Police said. "In the last year we lost two officers in the line of duty, and now we have a third in less than a year."
Officer Matthew Rittner was killed Feb. 6. He will be honored during the ceremonies in 2020.
DOC's Commerce Smokehouse was approached about the benefit a few months ago and immediately jumped on board.
"I'm not in law enforcement," said Brian Atkinson, the vice president of operations for DOC's Commerce Smokehouse. "Nobody in my family is. But some of my very good friends are. To see them go through what they've had to go through these past eight, nine months, it's something I don't want to see again. I want to do as much as possible to help them."
DOC's will donate 100 percent of its sales on select food and beverage choices. Some of the alcohol suppliers are also kicking in extra when purchasing their products. DOC's will also donate a portion of all proceeds.
In addition to the benefit, they are also hosting an online silent auction. This will include sports memorabilia and three very unique MPD experiences.
"There is one for two people, which is lunch with the chief at his favorite place, The Calderone," Officer Ed Ciano said. "The second is for two people on our harbor unit. The third, which is probably one of the most unique items, is going to be five hours for two people with our Tactical Enforcement Unit. People will work side by side with the Tactical Enforcement Unit officers, learn what they learned, go through training with gear and weapons they use. They will put that all together and do scenario-based training with simunitions, door breaching and room clearing. It's very unique."
The Tactical Enforcement Unit experience will be even more special as those who win the auction will train alongside officers who worked with Officer Rittner. They will have the opportunity to learn from this group and hear directly from them how losing a partner has impacted them. The trip to Washington, D.C., is something that will help officers cope with losses like this.
"To go out there with all of our colleagues, the families and the other law enforcement officers from across the country, just to have that support and with the events, I think it will just help heal those wounds," Lt. Shannon Taylor said.
Taylor works in the district Officer Irvine was a part of. As the anniversary of his death nears, he says his department still thinks of him.
"It's definitely on our minds," Taylor said. "As time went on, of course, we have a job to do. We have a mission to fulfill. We continue to do that. But we're always thinking about him."
Positive memories populate their thoughts. Taylor spoke about Irvine's attitude, calling him a ray of positivity. He even showed enthusiasm when taking out the trash. However, it's hard for officers not to think about their own mortality when they've witnessed three fallen officers in less than a year. National Police Week is a chance for them to learn how to handle those emotions.
"To go out there with all of our colleagues, the families and the other law enforcement officers from across the country, just to have that support and with the events, I think it will just help heal those wounds." — Lt. Shannon Taylor said.
"As officers, we don't get a chance to grieve because life continues moving on, and there are more problems that continue to exist," Lt. Erik Gulbrandson said. "This allows us to get counseling, get therapy and figure out, we need to heal as well instead of just supporting other people all the time."
"I try not to think about the 'what if,'" Ciano said. "But I know there's a risk every time I walk out the door. I believe the trip is a unique opportunity. It comes in unfortunate circumstances, but it really means a lot. There will be resources out there for us. Different things for us to do as a department. It will help with that grieving process."
The silent auction goes live at 11 a.m. Saturday.
There will also be other items for sale at the benefit including polos, T-shirts and a commemorative badge. The benefit starts at 11 a.m. at DOC's Commerce Smokehouse and will run until close.