When a law enforcement officer is gravely hurt or killed while on duty in Washington, a team of volunteers from the Behind the Badge Foundation responds immediately.
The volunteers provide support to the officer’s family and department, help plan the memorial service and offer money to help cover initial expenses.
In the foundation’s first year, teams have responded after seven deaths. This week, volunteers have been in the South Sound, helping the family of slain Pierce County Sheriff’s Department deputy Kent Mundell and coordinating with other county officials on his memorial service Tuesday.
“We’ll be there to help in any way, shape and form we can,” said foundation director Frank Kampsen, who was at the Tacoma Dome on Thursday, checking on seating arrangements for the ceremony. “We just want to make sure they are taken care of.”
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Lakewood Police Chief Bret Farrar said the foundation was a huge help to his department after four officers were killed Nov. 29 at a Parkland coffee shop.
“They show up, they jump in and help where they can,” Farrar said. “They are great people, with great hearts.”
The Behind the Badge Foundation, formed Jan. 1, 2009, was created from two other organizations – the Washington State Law Enforcement Memorial Foundation and the 10-99 Foundation.
Kampsen, a retired Seattle police detective sergeant and honor guard commander, was the founding president of the nonprofit Washington State Law Enforcement Memorial organization.
The group raised nearly $2 million to build a memorial to the state’s fallen law enforcement officers on the Capitol grounds in Olympia. The memorial was dedicated in May 2006.
The 10-99 Foundation, named for the dispatch code for “help the officer,” raised money to defray the costs for the families of officers killed in the line of duty.
The two foundations merged after the memorial was erected. Board members from each foundation remained part of Behind the Badge.
The foundation raises money through fundraisers, donations and specialty license plates. The goal is to raise about $500,000 to pay for the maintenance of the memorial in Olympia, Kampsen said.
It has two paid employees – each of whom lost a loved one in the line of duty and has worked for the Law Enforcement Memorial Foundation. Behind the Badge also has a state-recognized team of volunteers, including Kampsen, who respond when needed.
The team begins with four or five people and can grow to about 10 people, who include active-duty law enforcement officers, honor guard members and survivors of slain police officers
Kampsen also calls on honor guard members and representatives from other law enforcement agencies.
After Mundell was shot Dec. 21 in an exchange of gunfire with a domestic violence suspect near Tanwax Lake, volunteers drove to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle to help make sure his family and fellow officers had coffee, water, food and support.
“We’ve got to make sure the officers are taken care of and the family is comfortable,” Kampsen said.
Mundell died Monday of his injuries.
The foundation helps with the planning of memorial services and with the paperwork after an officer dies. It also provides money to the families and the departments.
Police departments “don’t carry budgets for this kind of stuff,” Kampsen said.
He knows the protocols because of his time with the Seattle police honor guard.
At the Tacoma Dome on Thursday, Kampsen was making sure the seating arrangement was what the department wanted and that the seats were tagged so there would be no confusion over who was sitting where.
After Tuesday’s memorial, the foundation will continue to stand by Mundell’s family and the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department. It will remind the department to keep in touch with Mundell’s family and to think about what to do on the anniversary of his death.
“They are still your family,” Kampsen said. “That’s really important.”