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EDITORIAL: Law enforcement is a dangerous challenge

By: The Gazette
August 30, 2015 Updated: August 30, 2015 at 4:20 am
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photo - Police investigate the scene outside a home where a fatal incident occurred Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015, in Sunset, La.  A police officer was killed Wednesday when he responded to a call at the home where multiple women had been stabbed, said the sheriff of rural St. Landry Parish. (Leslie Westbrook/The Advocate via AP)
Police investigate the scene outside a home where a fatal incident occurred Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015, in Sunset, La. A police officer was killed Wednesday when he responded to a call at the home where multiple women had been stabbed, said the sheriff of rural St. Landry Parish. (Leslie Westbrook/The Advocate via AP)  

Friday night, a Harris County, Texas, deputy sheriff was shot, execution-style, while refueling his patrol car. The only motive appears to be the badge he was wearing. It was a senseless, tragic death. Deputy Darren Goforth, 47, had a wife and children.

Wednesday, a Louisiana police officer responding to a call about a stabbing was fatally shot. His name was Henry Nelson, and he was simply doing his job.

Last Monday, Sgt. Peggy Vassallo was struck and killed by a vehicle while assisting another driver after being involved in an accident. A vehicle, traveling at a high speed, swerved around her police car and hit her. She later died at an area hospital.

In June, an Ohio man called 911 on himself, waited for police to respond and then shot and killed the 48-year-old officer, Sonny Kim, who responded to the scene. Two other officers were shot but survived. Kim had served with the Cincinnati Police Department for 27 years.

Thirty law officers have died in the line of duty in the Pikes Peak region since 1895. The most recent, Matthew Tyner, a 13-year veteran of the Colorado Springs Police Department, died in 2012 when his police motorcycle collided with another vehicle during a high-speed chase.

Various scenarios have resulted in 20 law enforcement officers losing their lives this year. Factor in those officers who have died in traffic accidents or during other circumstances and the number is 64 killed in the line of duty, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

Police work, like firefighting, is a dangerous, stressful and often thankless job. Sometimes in the midst of hearing about police brutality and those who have died in police custody we forget how dangerous it is to risk your life attempting to enforce the law. Very few occupations outside the military ask us to be prepared to lay down our lives.

The names Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner and Jonathan Ferrell are constantly mentioned in the media. They died while in police custody. But we don't hear the names of the police officers who lose their lives while working on the street. It's not a popular theme, but reality shows that an officer dies in America every 60 hours. This is an "attack on the fabric of society," Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson said in commenting on the death of the sheriff's deputy in her county.

As we examine the tenuous relationship between law enforcement and the public, let's not forget the seriousness of the weighty responsibilities and the dangers that officers face.

Yes, we should demand honesty, integrity and excellence from law enforcement, but we also should understand that theirs is not an easy or an ordinary job.

The Gazette

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