Law Enforcement Memorial Association providing support to families of slain Burnsville police officers

Organization offers support for community who lost first responders

Officers Killed Minnesota
Eden Prairie police officers pause next to memorials in front of the Burnsville Police Department in Burnsville. The Law Enforcement Memorial Association is one group providing support to the families of the officers who died Sunday. All Things Considered host Tom Crann spoke to the association president Brian Hubbard on Monday.
Craig Lassig | Pioneer Press via AP

Details are still emerging following a Sunday morning standoff and shooting in Burnsville that killed two police officers, one first responder, and the suspected shooter.

The Law Enforcement Memorial Association (LEMA) is one group providing support to the families of the officers who died Sunday.

Brian Hubbard is president of LEMA and deputy chief of the Crystal Police Department. He spoke with Tom Crann for All Things Considered on how they’re hoping to support some of those affected.

To hear the full interview, click on the audio player above. The following transcription has been edited for length and clarity.

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I understand you met with the families of the fallen officers earlier. I'm wondering if you could share what it was like in the room this morning.

We met separately with each of the officer families and no question it's the most difficult thing there is to do. Obviously, we are still very fresh on this incident. So, everything is still very raw and the emotions are intense, the feelings are intense. Lots of questions swirling in their heads and trying to figure out what's next.

Part of our goal is to come alongside them and let them know, in terms of just the details of putting together some type of a ceremony to recognize the sacrifice of these heroes, they didn't need to worry about that. We will make sure that that happens for them.

What else does that initial support look like outside of meeting with them?

Certainly we look to each of the departments to see what assistance they need or how we can be of help to them, both in supporting the rest of their team as well as those families. We don't want to step in and be in the way of the supports that they have in place. We really want to be there to supplement them.

So, our job is to give them a sense of calm and to try and let them know that we bring condolences on behalf of the whole law enforcement community. And to let them know that we are there to support them and that they are not — even though we're not experiencing it, they're not having to go through this experience alone.

What was your first reaction when you heard about the news yesterday morning unfolding in Burnsville?

Well, I don't think it's unique for me, Tom. Certainly, every officer and I would say most first responders know that when they go to work, when they do their jobs every day — that when they leave their home, there's a chance that something happens and they don't come home.

Even though the likelihood is overwhelmingly that that doesn't happen, certainly we're all aware of it. When it actually does happen and it happens close to home, I think it causes all of us to have to stop and pause for a moment and kind of recalibrate because we are going to continue to do this but it's certainly a harsh reality check for us in the profession.

Can you give me an idea of the effect this has on a department like Burnsville and the size of Burnsville Police Department?

I think as Chief Schwartz said in the press conference yesterday, this is a horribly difficult time for that whole team. You can tell on the faces of everybody, every one of those coworkers that I saw today while I was in that building. They are devastated by this. The loss is profound, you can tell that.

You know, the Burnsville Police Department and the Burnsville Fire Department — like most other departments around the states — we go to work and we spend a lot of time in really difficult situations with these partners, and we become very close to them. It becomes a second family for us. So, losing one of them is profound and that was obvious today as you look at the faces of those partners.

Sadly, it's not the first recent line-of-duty death here in Minnesota. In the last year there have been six in our region. How difficult has this been for you, other officers and members of the law enforcement community?

Well, again, I think anytime there's a death, it's difficult for us as a partner, as someone who does the profession, puts the uniforms on every day. I think it's difficult when it happens more often. It certainly is difficult. And when you take some of the issues that some of our agencies around the state have had regarding staffing and recruitment, certainly this compounds that dynamic, I think a little bit.

But on the same token, I would really say that one of the things that people need to remember — I told a couple people this yesterday: we saw the procession yesterday, hundreds of police cars and fire trucks. But what we can't lose in that is, yep, and there are police officers, firefighters and paramedics all throughout the state while that's going on, while it's fresh in their mind who are still right now, answering 911 calls and helping their community.

And even though we have to take some pause, we still have to continue to serve. Each of the individuals that's doing that deserves the gratitude and thanks from all of us.

Grieving the death of a loved one obviously does not end with a funeral or memorial service. What kinds of support does LEMA provide to the families of fallen officers once they're laid to rest?

One of the biggest concerns that I've heard from survivors over my number of years being involved in this is that they're afraid that the sacrifice of their loved ones will be forgotten once all of the pomp and circumstance and ceremonial stuff goes away. And so certainly, our organization exists in part to make sure that we don't ever forget those individuals.

These two officers represent lives number 304 and 305 in Minnesota that have died in the line of duty since the beginning of our role in the late 1800s. And so we're going to come alongside these families and support them beyond just the funeral time. We're going to continue to make sure that we don't ever forget the sacrifice that these three brave heroes gave yesterday.