Police officers still represent the best of us

By Bill Powell

As National Police Week comes to a close, take time to recognize the service and sacrifice of the men and women of our law enforcement community. Words are insufficient to express the gratitude of those who have given the ultimate sacrifice, but words are sometimes all we have.

Federal, state and local law enforcement officers are the guardians of our communities. Often at great sacrifice, they enforce the rule of law and keep us safe.

This country’s first known officer death in the line of duty was in 1791. His name was Constable Darius Quimby. He was from New York and was killed trying to arrest a man for a trespassing warrant.

The man who killed Constable Quimby was convicted and hanged. Since the murder of Constable Quimby, there have been more than 20,000 officers killed in the line of duty.

According to the FBI, there were 93 of their brothers and sisters who died across the country in line of duty incidents in 2017. One of them was from West Virginia. Lt. Aaron Crook, of the Bluefield Police Department, died May 30, 2017, as the result of a vehicle crash at an intersection shortly after midnight while involved in a vehicle pursuit.

Crook was a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and had served with the Bluefield Police Department for nine years. He is survived by his wife and two children.

We’ve had 49 deaths nationally so far in 2018, with half of those being by gunfire. The headlines don’t lie. Officers are many times targets in today’s climate.

In April, Deputy Sheriff Taylor Lindsey and Sgt. Noel Ramirez were simply eating lunch while on a break from their duties with the Gilchrist County Sheriff’s Office in Florida. Someone opened fire on the officers from outside the restaurant through a window. Both of these officers perished.

Some perish during acts of total selflessness. Police Officer Rodney Scott Smith, of the Hickman Police Department in Kentucky, was patrolling a flooded area in March, looking for those in need of rescue, when his police cruiser was swept away by flood waters. Rodney spent his last watch watching out for others. That’s what guardians do.

Our prayers go out to all of the families of these men and women. It takes great courage to be in law enforcement and great strength to be a family member of a law enforcement officer. Their sacrifices will never be forgotten.

As the U.S. attorney, I have the privilege of interacting with law enforcement professionals on a nearly daily basis. They are, without question, some of the finest and most dedicated people I’ve encountered in my professional life. There is not a task too big. There is not a sacrifice too great. The professionals I work with are not doing it for the money. They don’t do it for the great work hours or the abuse they take day to day.

They are not always perfect, but they have one goal — to make our community safer by protecting those who live in it. They, more often than not, represent the best of us.

Every day, I see actions by federal, state and local officers that likely save lives. Whether it is the arrest of a dealer of fentanyl or a felon in possession of a firearm, or the rescue of a child in an abusive situation — lives are saved. Those officers ask for nothing special. Not special recognition, not to be singled out and not even for thanks — though that is appreciated and not provided often enough. They just want to do their jobs because they know they are making their communities safer.

Notwithstanding the inherent risks and known dangers, notwithstanding the unfairly broad brush of scorn they get painted with in today’s society, and notwithstanding the physical and emotional pain they are exposed to on a daily basis, our law enforcement members continue to put on their badge every hour of every day. Whether it’s Christmas Day, or 2 a.m. on any other day, they are always there for us. That’s what guardians do.

So, last week we honored these men and women. Thank you for your service, sacrifice and dedication. Our society is better because of you.

BILL POWELL is the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of West Virginia. This commentary should be considered another point of view and not necessarily the opinion or editorial policy of The Dominion Post.

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