Koopman Family Is Thankful For Community Support & Remembers the Late FPD K9 Harlej
Photographer / Glenda White
Being a law enforcement family has its challenges.
The way many people and the media currently portray the police community has had us wondering as if the question in our minds is true.
“Are there very many people who believe in the mission of what police men and women do every day to protect between the line of good and evil?”
The job of a police officer is completely unpredictable. They never know exactly what they are walking into, yet they always go. How many of us can say we would do that job? If I’m being honest, the largest part of me, wouldn’t personally sign up to take that position.
Funny, the irony of being married to Jarred, who did.
The hardest part of all, as a K9 team, they are most often front lines to any pursuit. As a wife, I often worried whether Jarred and Harlej would come home each night together.
The countless times we shouted goodbye as they would run out the door to help someone who needed them was the exact reason I felt so grateful that Jarred had his K9 partner with him.
Harlej was a part of our family.
The boys spent numerous hours playing fetch with him and, like any dog, he would play until he got tired. Then he would take his Kong toy and sit right in the middle of my flowers to cool off. I would usually notice and say, Harlej! No buddy!” as Jarred would laugh.
Every single morning, Jarred would take him for his morning walk and no matter what the boys were doing, they raced to get their boots and jackets on to take a walk with them.
November 13, 2019 is a date etched into our hearts. A horrifying memory. It is the night Jarred called me at 3:30 in the morning to tell me that Harlej was shot and died while searching for someone who had run from them.
The sorrow in his voice was palpable. I cried, terrified, hoping it was only just a nightmare.
It is the call no police wife should ever have to hear and the one we all pray, if it has to happen, skips over our family. One of the other officers working that night, a good friend of ours, came to the house to pick the boys and I up and brought us to the hospital. It is where we saw Harlej and were able to say goodbye one final time.
That morning, Jarred came home alone. Without his partner and to a feeling of emptiness.
When we left the hospital I thought we would be sad. That the shift would be sad and that we might have a quiet little funeral at the police department.
But when 6:00 a.m. came and the news broke the story, we never could have imagined the whirlwind that ensued upon our world.
Our phones blew up with friends and family who wanted to know if Jarred was OK and how sorry they were to hear the news about Harlej. The days that followed became a blur, and our house became a place people came to process their feelings around what had just happened. It was a revolving door from any time in the afternoon until the wee hours of the night.
Friends and family, officers and administrators came to make sure we were OK. They brought food, gifts and cards, things to make the boys smile and shared memories of how Harlej had impacted their lives.
When Jarred and I learned that so many people had brought dog treats, cards, posters and pictures we were blown away. There were flowers, and wind chimes, stuffed animals and tennis balls. All to honor our hero, Harlej.
Gifts, monetary donations to the K9 fund, police patches and coins, photos and blankets, not to mention the cards that came, not only from our community, but from all over the United States and Canada.
We are still, even in the New Year, receiving things.
As we read the cards and listened to your stories, I thought back to the morning at the hospital when I wondered how this was going to affect us and realized, it wasn’t just us.
This tragic loss was affecting our entire community.
It was rippling from our hearts to our police family. Rippling to the extension of the blue line family, to families all over the country and beyond.
This wasn’t just a story about a dog dying. It was the story being written about how selflessness prevails for the greater good of the whole.
It’s what officers do on a daily basis.
The men and women who went into danger that night with Jarred and Harlej are heroic. The countless men and women on duty did their jobs so no one else got hurt, those who came while off duty to search to find the evidence left behind, and those who fought to make the wrong that happened that night into a story of success. Not failure. Our family is so grateful to you.
It’s taken me some time to process how much this has meant to me. To our family. And I think more processing is still to come.
To someone who was questioning whether people still believe in what officers do in the fight between good and evil, I no longer question.
You have given me a hope that could never come without such tragedy. You have shown me that there is a belief in the mission of what police officers stand for. Instead of shouting your views on the rooftops, you simply and effectively show up.
You surround the ones who need you and you support in a way that has physically, emotionally and mentally changed us. We are a simple family that believes in simple living.
We are very aware that no one has to do anything. Nothing has been required by anyone. No gifts or cards needed to be sent, no money gifted. Not one fundraiser or gift sent.
And yet so much has been given. So much support has been shown and you all have gifted us with a new perspective on how to look at this life with gratitude.
We can no longer move forward in the same ways as we did before this experience. We are proud of Harlej’s sacrifice and what it has given us.
We are proud to be a police family.
And all of this couldn’t have happened without the support of our community. You have lifted us when we felt sorrow. You supported us in love, and you gave us a renewed view of what it means to be a family who sacrifices for the greater good.
“Thank you” doesn’t come close to expressing how grateful we are.
Sometimes I can’t believe this whole time we were living with a hero.
Thank you Harlej, for uniting a community and showing us what real selflessness is.