MILWAUKEE -- Chaplains with The Salvation Army of Milwaukee County stepped up to provide emotional and spiritual care to members of the Milwaukee Police Department after the third death in the line of duty in eight months. Officer Matthew Rittner, 35, an officer with 17 years of service with the department died at the hospital after he was shot Wednesday morning near 12th and Manitoba. The department's Tactical Enforcement Unit was in the neighborhood to serve a search warrant for the illegal sale of firearms and drugs. Police said while conducting the search warrant, officers announced themselves as police, at which time the suspect fired several rounds, striking the officer.
The chaplains responded to every Milwaukee Police Department district station Wednesday to be available to anyone in need. They said after such a deadly eight months for the department, in the hours after Wednesday's incident, officers struggled with the shock that it happened once again. The chaplains were there to provide comfort, prayer, a listening ear and a loving and calm presence.
"It's being present for people in a time of crisis," said Pastor Alexis Twito, Salvation Army Chaplaincy Program coordinator.
The chaplains have worked alongside officers for almost four years, usually helping victims involved in tragic situations, but also helping the officers themselves.
"A lot of times what our chaplains might tell them is, just to remind them that what they do is appreciated in this city and that the sacrifice doesn't go unnoticed -- that we are grateful for everything that they do, and they're not alone," said Pastor Twito.
The shooting of the officer Wednesday morning happened to take place on one of the only training days for new chaplains. Some of the volunteer chaplains started training after two other MPD officers, Charles Irvine Jr., 23, and Michael Michalski, 52, were killed in separate incidents over the summer, in June and July, respectively. The shooting Wednesday marked the third death in the line of duty for MPD in eight months.
"Was able to give them a hug and tell them that we're sorry to be seeing you today on these circumstances," said Pastor Twito.
Pastor Twito said the officers were feeling the impact of the support and comfort the chaplains were working to provide.
"They have a whole city, a whole community of people who have rallied around them and we try to help them lean into that support, and rely on that," said Pastor Twito.
Anyone is welcome to volunteer as part of this program. CLICK HERE to learn more.