COVINGTON, Ga. – Officer Matt Cooper retired from the Covington Police Department (CPD) last weekend after nine years of service. Since getting shot in the head in September 2018 while on duty, Matt’s resilience and perseverance has been a symbol of strength for the community for the past five years.
Twenty months following his injury, Matt returned to work at the CPD in May 2020. Though the decision to retire was his, Matt noted his gratitude for his colleagues at the CPD for welcoming him back to law enforcement with open arms.
“I think they offered me the opportunity to come back and work on a volunteer status, because I wanted to come back and have a purpose,” Matt said. “Seeing the guys do the same job that I was doing, but I couldn’t physically or mentally do anymore, it kind of took a toll on my head space… It was on my terms and I was at peace with it.”
The Covington Police Department held a retirement ceremony to commemorate Matt’s career, which included dinner, a PowerPoint presentation and speeches from coworkers. Matt’s wife, Kristen, shared her appreciation for the CPD’s unwavering support and the wave of emotions felt regarding her husband’s retirement.
“The retirement was bittersweet for us because it was something we grieved because it was something we thought he would do at a later age,” Kristen said. “I thought [the CPD] did a really good job of honoring him throughout it all… I was kind of worried that it would just be centered around the shooting, but it wasn’t. They had some funny stories prior to his injury and after, and they just did a really good job of encompassing all parts of Matt and his career.”
Kristen noted how glad she was that Matt was able to make his own decision to retire, as “so many other decisions have been made for him and taken away.”
The CPD’s support of not only Matt, but the rest of the Cooper family as well, added to the rollercoaster of emotions.
For Matt, life in retirement so far has consisted of exploring new hobbies, such as archery and taking guitar lessons from McKibben Music on the Square. He also has been involved with the Wounded Warrior Project, which granted Matt the opportunity to attend an adaptive ski clinic in Colorado this February.
Most importantly, however, Matt is looking forward to spending time with his family.
“When I was policing, I’d take care of everybody else’s families, so now I can actually work on taking care of my own family,” Matt said.
Prior to his employment at the CPD, Matt served in the Army for eight years. Following his service, he obtained his EMS certification and his bachelor’s in criminal justice. Matt, who has a “servant’s heart,” felt impelled to work at the CPD because it would offer him the same opportunities to “serve the community on a more local level.”
While at the CPD, Matt embarked on multiple roles, such as patrolman, with his EMT certification doubling him as a shift EMT medic. After joining the SWAT team, he served as SWAT medic and a sniper.
One of Matt’s favorite memories during his nine years at the CPD was competing at the 2015 International Sniper Competition with his colleagues.
The camaraderie of the CPD is what Matt will miss most in retirement. Referring to the department as “a good, tight knit group,” seeing each other in the best and worst times of life is what solidifies the CPD’s work family environment.
“I just want to say thank you for just being so supportive of my journey,” Matt said. “Like I said, for some places, it’s just like, ‘Hey, we can’t use you, so we gotta, let’s see you out of the door.’ For the City of Covington, it’s like, they’ve actually welcomed me back in and everything, so it’s been great.”
Through the adversity he has faced from his injury five years ago, Matt’s spirit has never dampened – a testament to his character.
“There’s nothing that that man took from me that God could not restore,” Matt said.