TEMPE, Ariz — In the span of 36 hours over the weekend, Tempe Police and Tempe Fire Medical Rescue Departments responded to three calls where four children lost their lives.
On Saturday, Tempe Police said two children, ages 9 and 7, were killed by their mother. Tempe Fire said a 1-year-old drowned Saturday as well. Tempe police said on Sunday evening, a 4-year-old accidentally shot and killed themselves.
“It’s really tested us, we’re resilient, but it has been a challenge,” Sgt. Rob Ferraro with the Tempe Officer’s Association said.
Sgt. Steven Carbajal with Tempe Police said their thoughts and prayers are always with the victims in these situations, but these particular calls in such a short time span took a toll on public safety personnel.
“What we saw over the weekend in about 36 hours is almost a career’s worth of tragedy in just a small amount of time,” Carbajal said.
Carbajal said these tragedies stick with officers beyond the time they are on the clock.
“We’re not superhuman,” Carbajal said. “This uniform and this badge does not shield us from the emotional trauma that we take on when we go to these calls.”
Ferraro said much of his time over the weekend was spent listening to members who responded to these calls.
Both police and fire had staff that responded to more than one of the calls.
“You can’t prepare for this,” Ferraro said. “Almost all of us have children and it was extremely difficult. Even just to listen to the details shook me.”
Ferraro and Tempe Fire Capt. Jon Duffy said the unions for the departments are working with the members who responded to the calls to check-in and get them access to peer support and resources that they need.
The Craig Tiger Act, named after a former Phoenix Police officer who took his own life after battling with mental health issues following a use of force incident, expands access to trauma counseling for first responders.
Ferraro said those resources are ‘vitally important’ for first responders.
“We have to break this culture down of ‘suck it up’, because it’s okay to not be okay,” Ferraro said.
“We’re trying to get past that stigma and make it okay to ask for help for those who help others,” Tempe Fire Medical Rescue Department Assistant Chief Andrea Glass said.