Last month we celebrated National Police Appreciation Week, which was May 9 through May 15 this year. In particular, May 15 was Peace Officers Memorial Day, when officers who died in the line of duty are remembered and honored. The week also included a virtual candlelight vigil and many local ceremonies honoring law enforcement.
But as much as I support the police and all other forms of law enforcement, I have to ask: Why just one week to show our appreciation? Shouldn’t we be grateful to our law enforcement officers each day, every week, every month, not just in May?
Law enforcement truly is that thin blue line that willingly stands between us and the “bad guys”. Each day when each officer of each law enforcement unit puts on that badge and ventures into our society (which is becoming less and less civilized each day!) that officer may encounter danger, evil and possibly even death. And each time that danger materializes, they hold the line to protect us from it.
Here in Texas, so far this year, three officers have been killed by gunfire and one died from vehicular assault by a drunk driver. Fortunately, none of those were from Denton County, but our brave men and women in law enforcement are equally endangered each day.
Last year, both in Texas and nationally, was one of the deadliest ever for law enforcement, with 264 federal, state, military, tribal and local law enforcement officers dying in the line of duty. One reason it is so high is the invisible enemy we have all faced: COVID-19 was the cause of 145 of the 264 deaths, more than all other causes combined.
Here in Texas, our first responders are exposed virtually every day to the public, and some of those individuals were carrying the virus. But without absolute proof of who transmitted it when and where, many of our first responders who contracted COVID were denied workers’ compensation and other benefits. Stepping in to try and alleviate that injustice was Denton County State Representative Jared Patterson of Frisco who carried a bill which presumes that the exposure occurred during the course and scope of their employment, giving them the benefits previously denied. As of this writing, the bill has passed both houses of the State Legislature and is awaiting the Governor’s signature.
This admiration which I am expressing should not be taken to mean that law enforcement should not be held accountable when they abuse their power, when they break the law or when they use excessive and unnecessary force.
However, it’s obvious that the overwhelming majority of law enforcement individuals are true public servants, not bullies with badges. And many law enforcement professionals are working toward improvement both in practice and in policies such as those which ban chokeholds, no-knock warrants and dangerous high-speed pursuits. Additionally, some departments now have in place policies requiring police officers to intervene and report any of the rare instances of excessive force or other misconduct. Certainly, law enforcement is now aware of its challenges and working toward appropriate solutions.
So how can we as individuals, who are by and large supportive of our law enforcement community, show our appreciation?
First and foremost, we must speak up for law enforcement when we hear unfair verbal attacks on law enforcement which are based upon faulty or even false “information.” Most law enforcement personnel are advocates for community-based policing, and we are that community; if we fail to correct falsehoods when we hear them, they will go unchallenged and ultimately even believed.
Secondarily, do we take time when we see an officer to thank him or her? Do we pick up the tab for their lunches or coffees or doughnuts? Do we point them out to our young children as a source of safety and comfort if needed?
Let’s not wait until next Police Appreciation Week! If we have not been doing these simple things, perhaps it’s time to start. I will be doing that — how about you?
Contact Commissioner Edmondson by email at [email protected] or phone her at 972-434-3960. You can also stop by her office in the Southwest Courthouse, 6200 Canyon Falls Drive, Suite 900, in Flower Mound.