Honoring the Fallen: Milwaukee Police Department’s Wellness Team Provides Support for Officers in Need

13 December 2023

As former Milwaukee Police Officer James Nowak is laid to rest, the MPD’s Wellness Team continues to offer crucial support to officers dealing with the emotional toll of their work.

The Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) is mourning the loss of former officer James Nowak, who tragically passed away due to injuries sustained in an off-duty car accident. Now, as the department prepares to bid farewell to another fallen officer, the MPD’s Wellness Team is stepping up to provide much-needed support for its members. This dedicated team, established in 2016, offers therapy, counseling, and even an emotional support dog to help officers navigate the mental and emotional challenges that come with their demanding profession.

1: The MPD’s Wellness Team: A Lifeline for Officers

Within the vast structure of the MPD, the Wellness Team stands as a vital resource for officers facing personal struggles. Assistant Chief Nicole Waldner emphasizes the importance of addressing the day-to-day stress officers experience, recognizing that it can have a significant impact on their well-being and personal lives. The team’s mission is to ensure that officers have access to the help they need, providing a safe space for them to seek assistance without judgment or stigma.

2: A Support System in Times of Grief

The MPD has sadly witnessed the loss of several officers since 2018, both on-duty and off-duty. These tragedies have deeply affected the department, particularly Milwaukee Police District 4, which has experienced the loss of multiple officers. Officer Peter Jerving, who died in the line of duty in February, was a close colleague and partner of Nowak. The loss of Nowak only compounds the grief within the department. The Wellness Team recognizes that the process of healing and moving forward does not end with saying goodbye, and they are committed to providing ongoing support to officers struggling with grief and trauma.

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3: Filling the Gaps in Mental Health Support

Assistant Chief Waldner acknowledges that the MPD Wellness Team’s presence has been crucial, especially in light of the challenges officers face in accessing mental health services. The team’s intervention has provided a lifeline for officers, sparing them the burden of navigating a complex and often overwhelmed mental health system. By offering therapy, counseling, and the companionship of an emotional support dog, the Wellness Team aims to ensure that officers receive the care they need to process their experiences and maintain their mental well-being.

4: Breaking the Cycle of Trauma

One of the team’s primary goals is to help officers break free from the cycle of trauma and prevent them from constantly anticipating the next tragedy. Assistant Chief Waldner expresses her concern for officers who have witnessed so much and emphasizes the importance of helping them find ways to heal and move forward. By providing a supportive environment and access to professional help, the Wellness Team aims to empower officers to prioritize their mental health and well-being.

Conclusion: As former Milwaukee Police Officer James Nowak is laid to rest, the MPD’s Wellness Team continues to play a vital role in supporting officers dealing with the emotional toll of their work. By providing therapy, counseling, and an emotional support dog, the team offers a lifeline for officers navigating the challenges of their profession. As the department mourns the loss of another dedicated officer, the Wellness Team remains committed to breaking the cycle of trauma and ensuring that officers receive the care they need to heal and move forward. Their unwavering support is a testament to the MPD’s dedication to the well-being of its officers, demonstrating the importance of prioritizing mental health within law enforcement agencies.

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