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Band of brothers always on call
[September 06, 2010]

Band of brothers always on call

Sep 06, 2010 (St. Joseph News-Press - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- It's a bond that never breaks; A bond that knows no boundaries and anticipates every need.

When an officer in the St. Joseph Police Department is down, the entire unit will be there in support of his or her family and friends. But what about an officer who is not in their division? "It's not an obligation, but it's something we would do for each other, whether they're from California, Alaska or wherever. We would be there," said Mike Hardin, patrol officer and president of the Fraternal Order of Police in St. Joseph.

An accident in July demonstrated just that.

Josh Zeplin, a Kansas City, Mo., police officer, was involved in a one-vehicle accident in Andrew County on July 25 that killed his wife and put him in critical condition.

The cause of the accident is still unknown, but when members of the FOP were notified, they were there to provide whatever support his fellow officers and family members needed, "whether it be for food or something to drink or just someone to talk to," said Bill Albertson, deputy sheriff and FOP secretary.

Members of the FOP met Mr. Zeplin's family on the interstate and provided them an escort to Heartland Regional Medical Center, where he was being treated in the Intensive Care Unit. They also helped purchase food for the Kansas City officers who waited anxiously by Mr. Zeplin's hospital door.

Even Savannah police officers offered to help the family, when they were asked to find a charm bracelet Mr. Zeplin's wife was wearing the night of the accident. They went to the scene of the accident with metal detectors, searching the car and the area around it in 100-degree heat, Mr. Hardin said.

"We did everything we could. I don't know if it was helpful at all; I hope it was," Mr. Hardin said.

The efforts did not go unnoticed. Rhonda Zeplin, of Kansas City, thought the outpouring of support for her nephew was "surreal." The St. Joseph police officers at the hospital had never met Mr. Zeplin, yet they were willing to stick by her and answer any questions she and her family had.

"It's a different feeling. You don't see a whole lot of that in your life, really," Ms. Zeplin said.

Mr. Zeplin is now doing out-patient treatment in Omaha, Neb., and is recovering quickly, Ms. Zeplin said. He suffered a concussion and broken ribs, but hopes to get back to work before the end of the year.

A situation like this demonstrates the strong brotherhood that law enforcement everywhere has, Mr. Albertson said.

"It's not just necessarily FOP members, it's just law enforcement. We feel the same brotherhood a lot of the time with paramedics and firemen as well," Mr. Hardin said. "We understand what each other go through on a daily basis and how hard the job is, and a lot of times the only thing we have is each other." Kim Norvell can be reached at [email protected].

To see more of the St. Joseph News-Press or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to Copyright (c) 2010, St. Joseph News-Press, Mo.

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