VIRGINIA BEACH — On May 31, police, firefighters, and emergency medical personnel answered the call to duty at Building 2 — a site Police Chief Jim Cervera described as a “war zone.”
While the community has banded together to support survivors, victims, and affected city employees, representatives from the Virginia Beach Police Foundation said they’re mindful responders might experience what is usually associated with military combat vets– PTSD.
Former police chief and VBPF founder Jake Jacocks serves on the organization’s board of directors and said they’re dedicating a recent $50,000 donation to support crisis counseling and related services for the approximately 170 first responders who were confronted with the carnage that day.
The money came from Armada Hoffler Properties.
“There’s this image that law enforcement portrays that they’re tough and nothing bothers them, but they’re all human,” he said.
Although the foundation’s support focuses on the police force, the donation will also be extended to Virginia Beach fire, EMS, and 911 dispatch personnel who sometimes get left out “when we think of first responders,” Jacocks said.
“Those are the people that are taking those phone calls and hearing those people screaming or are on the radio and putting those calls out,” he said.
Jacocks said there are some mental health resources available for officers within the department but hopes the donation can also be used for proactive, and not just responsive training and support.
“I’d like to see everyone get training on things they could experience after responding to a situation like this so they know and are aware it’s okay to ask for help,” he said.
According to a recent study, within the last three years, more officers have been lost to suicide than to “line-of-duty” deaths.
VBPF president Linwood O. Branch accepted Armada Hoffler Properties’ donation at their town center office Monday. The company’s CEO, Louis Haddad, said he doesn’t think any amount of training could prepare someone for what happened on May 31 but knows this “reasonably small amount of money, given to the right place, could make a ridiculous amount of difference.”
“We need our law enforcement to be healthy and be at work every day so they can do what the community asks them to do and this donation will help them ensure that,” Jacocks said.
The Virginia Beach Police Foundation is a nonprofit all-volunteer organization separate from the Virginia Beach Police Department. The foundation provides officers with means of support, including officer scholarships required for promotion and injured or deceased officer family financial assistance, Jacocks said.
Jacocks said over his 38 years of experience on the force, he’s never seen anything compared to what first responders faced on May 31, but “once a cop, always a cop.”
“I don’t have to know each of those responders personally to know what kind of job they have and what kind of job they do and what that could cause,” he said.
For more information or to donate to the Virginia Beach Police Foundation, click here.