MATC Police Academy Director Talks About Officer Deaths In Southeastern Wisconsin

Jul 9, 2019

Updated on July 12 at 3:45 p.m. CT

A Wisconsin man has been convicted of first-degree intentional homicide in the shooting death of Milwaukee Police Officer Matthew Rittner. The 17-year police veteran died by gunfire as he executed a no-knock search warrant in February.

READ: 'Tragic & Impactful Loss': Milwaukee Police Officer Shot And Killed

Five officers in southeastern Wisconsin have been killed in the past year, both on and off duty. It had been 22 years since an on-duty Milwaukee police officer had been killed.

Eugene Reyes is director of the Police Academy at Milwaukee Area Technical College, and a retired Milwaukee police officer. He says there are ways to help new police recruits deal with these types of fatalities. When there's a critical incident, like the three MPD officers who lost their lives on the job — Rittner, Michael Michalski and Charles Irvine Jr. — he talks about it with his recruits.

"I simply ask them, 'go home, talk to your loved ones ... whoever is your support group, and ask them 'are you willing to support me in this career choice? Is this career choice for me?'" Reyes continues, "and if it's not for you ... then simply let me know. There is no dishonor in stepping away from this career at all because you can die going to work."

He says the culture is changing for police: officers can now talk to psychologists and other professionals, and the State of Wisconsin Law Enforcement Standards Board has specialized training to certify officers to be available for other officers who want to talk. He says there are also chaplains available.

"Talking is a big thing," says Reyes. "I mean the culture of the machismo, of being quiet, those days are over in my opinion."