How quickly we seem to forget. Those of us working in Southwest Washington law enforcement haven’t forgotten and hope that the citizens we serve haven’t forgotten either.
Sgt. Brad Crawford was killed in this county, in the line of duty, in July 2004. He was an officer of impeccable character and heart and served this community with honor. Members of the law enforcement community nationally and internationally came to Clark County to honor a brother they had never met, but would have served with unconditionally. That’s what law enforcement officers do; they understand every day that when they go to work, they may not return. They know the risk, yet they go anyway; it’s not a job, it’s a calling.
Members of the military see the atrocities of war in other lands, faraway; police officers see it at home, in neighborhoods only minutes away from their own. Career officers have stories they do not tell. They have nightmares that remain unexplained; places they will not go; names they will not repeat; horrors they choose to put away, in a safe place in their minds and hearts, hoping they will not be revealed.
Why? Because if you knew what they saw on calls right here, every day, you wouldn’t view your citizenry in the same way. Men and women in law enforcement know society’s darkest secrets; they speak of things in their work that most people would find unspeakable.
With the recent senseless killing in our state of six law enforcement officers in recent months, it seems to me that the public discourse would be very different. Men and women put their lives on the line for an average wage, medical insurance and a retirement package that they hope they will receive if they are fortunate enough to survive their career physically and mentally intact.
Officers make a choice every shift; a choice between their own families and protecting yours. Dedicated officers leave home in the dark of night to hunt for the killer, the felon, the predator. Someone calls for help and the officers come — no matter what.
Our community asks them to do things most would never have the courage to do. We ask them to make judgments instantaneously, without error or excessive force or fear. We ask them to face injury and even death for us. We scrutinize their mistakes in both the court system and the court of public opinion. We shame them when one acts out of order, and we expect departments to excise bad actors immediately — knowing that hindsight is always 20/20.
Why are we having a public discourse about the cost of a law enforcement memorial? Why did that debate occur only days after a Washington State Patrol trooper was shot in the head in Long Beach? What is it about a citizenry that forgets so quickly about the extreme sacrifices made on a daily basis by men and women in law enforcement, people they often do not know? Why does a local officer’s termination make the front page; yet the shooting of a trooper lands on the second page?
It’s not about what they say in their tweets and on their blogs. Times are tough, it’s about the money, taxpayer money that was spent to send cops to grieve, or guard — hard to tell. In a civilized society, shouldn’t we be more concerned with why the men and women in law enforcement have become random targets for senseless acts of violence?
Unspeakable acts are being committed in this state against those who serve unwaveringly. Shouldn’t we be grieving with them and thanking our lucky stars that we only have to mourn occasionally. After all, we used to go a long time without losing law enforcement officers in this state; now we’re losing them at a frightening rate.
Erin Nolan of La Center is chief civil deputy for the Clark County Sheriff’s Office.