Remembering Those in Harmís Way
With the New Year rapidly approaching, much of the media now turns its attention to ruminating over what were the Top 10 stories of the year. Perhaps one the most disturbing stories was the “Alarming Rise in 2010 Law Enforcement Officer Fatalities.”
2010 was a tough year and there are plenty of stories about natural, political, and economic disasters to regale future generations.
However, our great nation will survive and, for the most part, we will rebound economically, muddle along politically and eventually recover from the natural – and man-made disasters; but the loss of a police officer is forever – for the family, loved-ones, and the community.
It erodes the social network fabric which ensures our quality of life and future.
Certainly not to be overlooked at this point in time is the continuing tragic loss of life by our men and woman in uniform in God-forsaken foreign lands. We pray for their safety and yearn for them to come home soon.
WUSA9.com was where I first noticed the chilling news, “Line-Of-Duty Police Deaths Up 40 Percent This Year.” 9 News calls to our attention a study just released Monday by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF).
The news that a total of 160 law enforcement officers nationwide died in the line of duty during 2010 follows a two-year decline and comes on the heels of 2009, which saw a 50-year low of 117 police officer fatalities. (Read the full Preliminary 2010 End of Year Officer Fatality Report.)
Many had hoped that 2009 would be the beginning of a downward trend in officer deaths.
The 2010 fatality report shows “that for the 13th year in a row, traffic fatalities were the leading cause of officer fatalities, with 73 officers killed in the line of duty – an increase of 43 percent from 2009…
“Fifty-nine officers have been shot and killed during the past year, which is a 20 percent increase over the 49 killed by gunfire in 2009.
“In addition to the officers killed by firearms or in traffic-related incidents, 19 officers died as a result of job-related illnesses, two were beaten, two drowned, two officers suffered fatal falls, two died in aircraft crashes and one officer died in a boating accident.”
The danger of being killed on the job by gunfire awaits an officer with every domestic violence investigation, or every traffic stop as I reported in my June 16, 2010, column on TheTentacle.com, “To preserve the American Dream.”
Fortunately, the officer was not hurt, although the danger loomed large on a dark road in the middle of the night when “… Deputy 1st Class Brant Webb was patrolling in a marked sheriff’s car on Old Westminster Pike near Reese Road (just east of the Westminster city limits,) when he stopped a 1998 Ford Explorer for displaying suspended registration.
“As the deputy contacted the driver, he thrust a handgun out the window and attempted to fire a shot at the deputy; but the handgun reportedly misfired. The deputy backed away from the vehicle and returned fire as the driver accelerated away from the traffic stop…”
A week later on TheTentacle.com, I wrote about what is believed to be the first line-of-duty death on the nation: “The First Among Many.”
“… (M)any news articles about tragedies that befall police officers in the line of duty will state, “Since the first recorded police death in 1792…” but never mention Deputy Isaac Smith.
“The name Isaac Smith is not necessarily a household word for most people. He died on May 17, 1792. From various accounts we learn that he was a man of many talents including a war hero, farmer, doctor, and politician.
“He was also a deputy sheriff who died in the line of duty when he answered the call to help a fellow officer in a tavern owned by Levi Hunt in what was then Westchester County just outside New York City…”
In the 9 News article by Ken Molestina, it was noted that “Virginia ranked 14 with 4 officer deaths in 2010. Maryland came in at number 8 with 5 officer deaths. Washington, D.C., had one officer killed following a crash while on duty.”
Mr. Molestina recalls that in Maryland, a “(t)wenty-four-year-old Maryland State Trooper and Seat Pleasant native Wesley Brown is one of the most recent officers to be slain while on the job. Trooper Brown was working a security detail in a Forestville, Md., restaurant when he was shot and killed in June of 2010.
“The trooper's sister, Janet Brown, said: ‘People who think negative and commit crimes against police officers... they take away from the community, from the families.’ ”
Our prayers go out to Trooper Brown’s family.
The holidays are as good as any time to remember the community leaders who make our county special. Public safety, community services, and the business of government and education do not take much of a holiday this time of the year.
Paradoxically, at a time when we look forward to spending more time with our families, friends and loved ones, the people who provide so much of our quality of life are spending more time away from their families than at any other time of the year.
Sadly, some families – too many families – will spend the holidays, and the rest of their lives, without a fallen law enforcement officer, emergency responder or a member of the military, the very men and women who have sacrificed so that we may enjoy the holidays and our way of life.
Please keep people such as our firefighters, police officers, teachers, men and women in uniform, and public works personnel in your hearts and your prayers as you enjoy the holiday season.