TPD officer Crouch and LCSO deputy Nowak to be honored at Police Week after dying due to Covid-19
WASHINTON, D.C. (WCTV) - 2021 will go down as the deadliest year for law enforcement since 9-11.
But the cause of death for hundreds wasn’t through violence, but rather, a virus.
COVID-19 attributed to more than 400 lines of duty deaths.
But as WCTV’s Abby Walton shares, the conversation surrounding these deaths still carries a big stigma.
In 2021, the capital city lost Officer Clifford Crouch with the Tallahassee Police Department and Correctional Deputy Michael Nowak with the Leon County Sheriff’s Office.
Both deaths are listed as COVID-19.
Now, almost a year later, both families are still coping with the trauma and still worried about their deaths being politicized.
“The PSOB, Public Safety Officer Benefits Program, they’re the ones that do the federal benefits for survivors. If an officer dies of COVID, it is almost every time, automatically, a line of duty death because it was part of their job,” Sara Slone, the National Communications Director of C.O.P.S. said.
Slone works with the Concerns of Police Survivors or C.O.P.S.
Due to intense opinions surrounding the virus, masks and vaccinations, she said line of duty deaths from COVID are leaving many families isolated in their grief.
“I think a lot of people internalize that and definitely that will be addressed at our conference,” Slone said.
This year, during Police Week, the C.O.P.S. conference will have sessions for families who lost an officer to COVID-19.
“When COVID-19 came around, not only were they risking their lives, but they were risking their families by going out,” Marcia Ferranto, the CEO of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund said.
Ferranto said every name on the memorial wall is put through a strict review process to ensure the death was in the line of duty, including COVID-19.
“They all have to be honored. Those stories need to be honored and not judged,” Ferranto said.
Leon County Sheriff Walt McNeil praised Deputy Nowak for continuing to work in the detention facility during the pandemic.
“It takes an added degree of courage to stand in those circumstances and continue to deliver services,” Sheriff McNeil said.
In April 2022, WCTV attended a concert and fundraiser for local first responders who died from COVID.
That night, WCTV talked with Deputy Nowak’s son, Jacob, who had this to say about his father.
“I just want people to know that he was a really good person. And that he put 110 percent into everything he did. He was a really hard worker and he loved his community, Jacob Nowak said.
Sheriff McNeil said Deputy Nowak’s mother told him as a military man, he had many titles, but his greatest title was that of Dad.
“And I think that speaks volumes about who the man is,” Sheriff McNeil said.
According to Tallahassee Police Chief Lawrence Revell, the same can be said about Officer Crouch.
“He was an officer that made everybody else around him better,” Chief Revell said.
The pull to service was great for these men and hundreds of others who died protecting our community, knowing an invisible threat was always there.
Officer Clifford Crouch was 38-years old.
He’s survived by his wife and four children.
Deputy Michael Nowak was 52-years old.
He’s survived by his wife, four children and two grandchildren.
If you’d like to watch tonight’s candlelight vigil in Washington, D.C., you can visit this link.
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