A Tribute to Two Police Officers
Police officers Michael Wise and Scott Wertz both lost their lives trying to protect their community and the citizens of Reading, PA. The tragedies occurred only two years apart. Michael Wise was mistakenly killed by another police officer and a twenty-six year old is serving a 13 ½ to 27 year sentence for triggering the gun battle that led to Officer Wise’s death. Scott Wertz was shot and killed after responding to a police call in Reading and a twenty-three year old has been charged in the slaying and the trial is slated to begin in September.
The Olivet Boys & Girls Club, a place where youth can go to get off the streets and spend time in a safe environment, in conjunction with the Juvenile Probation Office, run the "Mentoring and the Arts Program." The program combines the personalization of mentoring relationships with the therapeutic quality of group art activities. Youth on probation attend weekly sessions at the Police Athletic League of the Olivet Boys & Girls Club where they are exposed to a variety of art forms including: drawing, photography, air brushing and poetry. They are also assigned a mentor who spends time with them on a one-to-one basis every week.
After the tragedies occurred in their community, the youth and staff wanted to paint a mural in memory of the two officers. Prior to the mural painting, the youth in the Mentoring and the Arts Program knew only that these officers had been shot and killed but after the project, they realized that they were people with families, friends and hobbies, as well. Scott Wertz loved baseball and coached his sons’ teams, so the youth painted a baseball and bat under his portrait. Michael Wise loved to ride motorcycles, so a picture of a motorcycle can be found under his picture. Meghan Blevins, program coordinator, believed that by having the youth learn about the officers, they would be more likely to form a positive opinion about them and their fellow officers.
The youth expressed their love for this project at a family night, held at the Police Athletic League Unit, for the juvenile’s families and probation officers. President Judge Arthur E. Grim was also in attendance. Not only did the youth state that they learned different painting techniques while participating in the project but they got to know a little more about each police officer. As one twelve year old juvenile put it, "working on this mural taught me different artistic skills and working together was a challenge. I helped create this mural to support the two police officers and their families. It helped me realize that police officers are always in danger. By helping create the mural, I hope that their families and friends would recover from this tragedy. I really didn’t know them, but I knew they were important in other people’s hearts. They were two brave men who suffered a tragic death."
The mural is prominently displayed outside the courtroom in the Juvenile Probation Office so that no one will forget the dedication and bravery of these two men. A dedication was held on March 2, 2007 at which time fellow police officers, the officer’s families and friends, community members and probation officers were united for one afternoon to remember what these two men gave of themselves.