Remember the Heroes Behind the Badge

Allie Kelsey, Viewpoints Editor

One would be a tragedy, but 135 is beyond comprehension. In 2016 nationwide, we lost an inconceivable 135 police officers. These fallen police officers were killed in the line of duty and deserve our gratitude for their service and our acknowledgment that in remembering them we are also recognizing that these statistics are unacceptable.

Stats show that 2016 reached the highest level of police officers killed in the line of duty in five years. The media has reported on the rise of police officer killings, circumstances around their deaths, states with the highest numbers of fallen officers, and potential reasons for the significant increase.

According to the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund, 64 out of the 135 fallen officers were shot and killed. This is a 56% increase of officers killed by gunfire in 2015 where 41 officers were killed by gunfire. The leading circumstances surrounding these fatal shootings included during an attempt to arrest, burglary, during a demonstration, custody of prisoners, disturbance, domestic calls, drug investigation, man with a gun, patrol, suspicious persons, tactical, traffic stops, and inadvertent. The three highest were during attempt to arrest (9), during domestic calls (14), and suspicious persons (13). The lowest number was inadvertent circumstance, which was one killed officer.

Out of the 64 officers shot and killed, 21 were without warning and considered an ambush-style shooting. This is 163% higher than 2015 where the total was 8 for ambush-style police-officer killings. These statistics demand that we as a nation work towards raising awareness, building relationships, and ensuring that our peacemakers can safely return to their families at the end of their shift.

According to the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund, some states with the highest numbers of fallen officers in 2016 included Texas, which lost 17 officers; California, which lost 10; Louisiana, which lost 9; Georgia, which lost 8; and Michigan, which lost 6 officers.

Different sources will report conflicting information in terms of whether there has been a significant increase in police officer killings in the line of duty and the potential factors contributing to these killings. These conflicting reports cause skewed opinions within communities when the focus should be on recognizing that even one officer killed in the line of duty is too much. These brave men and women make the sacrifice to leave their families each day for long hours, sometimes days in a row, miss holidays and important life events, and never know what danger they will face during their shift, all to keep us safe. They have chosen to protect and serve others ensure safety and peace. The 135 fallen heroes of 2016 made the ultimate sacrifice; they deserve our gratitude and deserve to be remembered.

The families that have a loved one or multiple loved ones who have chosen to protect and serve make sacrifices along with their hero. They live in fear of a knock at their door that could change their life forever. It is not a life for everyone. Many say it is a “calling.” It is definitely for the strong and brave. I am proud of my family in blue. I respect and remember the fallen officers of 2016. I hope for a safer 2017 and beyond for our heroes behind the badge.

To remember the fallen officers of 2016, the families that suffered their tragic loss, and the community of officers and their families that mourn the loss of their brothers or sisters in blue, I conclude with this poem that captivates what it is like when a peacemaker is taken from us. This poem describes my stepfather on a sad day before attending the funeral of another officer gone too soon.

He’s home again with his dress blues
To once again say goodbye to his united family, proud and true
I wonder what goes on in his mind
When he hears the horrifying news yet another time
Does he know when he leaves for work, I take a look at his face?
And I say a silent prayer to return him home, to his rightful place
My mom reminds him to come home safely, at any cost
He reminds her his role is to save the lost
I question how he doesn’t feel defeated and scared
He reminds me he took an oath to always be there
We look in his eyes and see exhaustion and sadness
We turn on the news and witness nothing but madness
I know he’s an angel and a hero to me
It saddens me that others are ignorant to see
Our men and women in blue
Risk their lives, miss their families, and do it all to protect you