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March 2002

Officer Marlene Loos

Suffolk County (NY) Police Department

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) has announced the selection of Police Officer Marlene Loos as its Officer of the Month for March 2002. Officer Loos is currently assigned to the Suffolk County (NY) Police Department's Training Academy.

Marlene Loos grew up on Long Island (NY) in a family of cops. Her father, Robert C. Loos, retired in 1971 from the New York City Police Department and her two brothers, Lawrence and Gary, followed his lead. Both are Sergeants; Lawrence with the Freehold Township (NJ) Police Department, and Gary with the Melbourne (FL) Police Department. Law enforcement, however, was not Marlene's first career choice. Her passions focused on psychology and writing. In 1988, she graduated from Hofstra University in Hempstead (NY) with a bachelor's degree in psychology and two years later she earned a master's degree in humanities.

She soon realized that law enforcement was in her blood and decided to join the family business. In December 1993 she graduated from the Suffolk County Police Academy and for the next six years worked neighborhood patrols and traffic duty. On December 10, 1998, while responding to a 911 call, events transpired that would forever change the course of Officer Loos' life and career.

At approximately 10:30 am that day, Officer Loos responded to a 911 call of a male assailant beating a woman at a gas station. As Officer Loos exited her vehicle, the male assailant attacked her, throwing her to the ground, savagely smashing her head against the concrete. A violent struggle ensued and in the melee, the assailant was able to wrestle Officer Loos' weapon from her holster. Screaming he was going to kill her, he shot Officer Loos point blank in the chest. Although the body armor stopped the bullet, she knew that at least one rib was broken from its impact and at the very least had suffered a fractured skull.

Although in tremendous pain from the beating she had sustained, Officer Loos scrambled to her feet. Her one thought was to get the other customers safely inside the gas station and out of the range of fire. The gunman pursued Officer Loos, following her into the building, where he again opened fire, hitting her in the right arm. Sure that the gunman would open fire on the unarmed civilians and despite her extensive injuries, the officer covered a female customer with her own body hoping that her body armor could protect them both.

Officers Kit Gabrielsen and Alphonso Ray arrived on the scene and were met with a barrage of gunfire. As the officers returned fire, the assailant fled the gas station. Officers Gabrielsen and Ray gave chase and were able to subdue the gunman. The gunman was ultimately convicted of attempted murder in the first degree and in March 2000 was sentenced to 18 years to life. Officer Loos was hospitalized and treated for the many serious injuries she suffered that winter morning.

For her courageous and selfless actions, Officer Marlene Loos received the Suffolk County Police Department's Purple Heart, Police Benevolent Association's (PBA) Silver Shield Award and she was inducted into the International Association of Chiefs of Police/du Pont Kevlar Survivor's Club. In addition, the Governor of New York named her the New York State Police Officer of the Year and she was awarded the State Police Chief's Medal of Honor for 1999.

Ten long weeks passed after the incident before Officer Loos was well enough to return to duty. The physical injuries healed slowly; the emotional wounds laid open much longer. Marlene longed to resume her career. However, the daily tasks of her normal routine seemed overwhelming. She began experiencing severe bouts of anxiety as well as panic attacks and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Many who had endured such an event would have retired from the police department and moved on with their life. She chose, however, to remain on the job and make her experiences work in her favor. She came to realize that she was "…not the only one on this path." She combined her college education with first-hand experience and found her mission as a Police Academy instructor. Marlene successfully completed the police instructor certification program as well as the basic and advanced critical incident stress management courses. Lieutenant Frank J. Carparelli, Commanding Officer of the In-Service Training Section at the Suffolk County Police Academy says Officer Loos "…is driven by her desire to help other officers who have suffered from critical incidents."

Officer Loos' actions that December morning were notable. However, it is the impact she is making since that day that helps make a difference in the lives of fellow police officers. Officer Loos is a frequent lecturer, providing insight to fellow officers about surviving a critical incident and its aftermath. She debriefs Nassau County and New York City police officers involved in their own critical incidents, and established a support group for police officers involved in the rescue efforts following the September 11 terrorist attack at the World Trade Center. She has written numerous articles on the subject; most notably "The Healing Game," and she is currently pursuing a master's degree in social work.