The Responder of the Year for 2019 was awarded to
Officer Mike Wierenga
Officer Mike Wierenga from the Grand Rapids Police Department was recognized as the "Responder of the Year" for 2019 at the 31st Annual MCRA Training Conference on September 16, 2019. Officer Wierenga was nominated by GRPD Sgt. John Wittkowski.
Officer Michael Wierenga is a 25-year veteran of the Grand Rapids Police Department and has been a passionate member of our Critical Incident Stress Management team since its inception. He has been active in the area of stress and trauma for nearly 20 years and has helped grow our 28-member team into what it is today. Mike has not only been a leader within the department but is sought out nationally as an expert in the area of critical incident stress management. Mike has spoken at national conferences and has provided guidance to dozens of agencies looking to start their own team. He not only has experience in law enforcement, but for years was a volunteer firefighter. Being trained in both law enforcement and the fire service has allowed Mike to transcend boundaries, giving him the ability to reach all aspects of emergency service.
In 2011 the city of Grand Rapids was confronted with a mass shooting spree, a tragedy not experienced before or since. Roderick Dantzler killed 7 people and wounded 2 others in a single day. The victims were family members, some of them being children. Dantzler eventually ended his life. Mike was at the forefront of providing care and direction to the officers involved. He provided endless hours of listening, attending debriefings and checking in with those who experienced the trauma associated with this event. He not only helped those at the Grand Rapids Police Department but assisted with providing relief for the medics and firefighters who were also involved. He worked tirelessly for weeks and months after this incident, knowing so many people were in need.
Mike's services have also been lent to other agencies that have had their own traumatic events, but with little or no resources to provide help. Mike has been involved in dozens of critical incidents, has been by the side of officer's in personal turmoil and has assisted families who have been affected by the trauma of their loved ones. Mike also provides a program for family members of officers, teaching them about vicarious trauma and what they may expect as their loved-one’s progress through a career as a first responder. Mike has trained extensively throughout Michigan and the U.S. on the subject of trauma and resilience and is a recognized expert in the field.