This week, May 15-21, is designated National Police Week. Recognition weeks and days are on the calendar for many occupations, but many go unnoticed or unobserved.
Law enforcement officers are unsung heroes. They willingly risk their lives every shift they work in order to ensure the safety and comfort of our communities. Each call they are dispatched to or each stop they make can carry a risk — no matter if it’s a speeding vehicle or a runaway cow in the road (which happens in these rural areas).
They never know what might happen.
There were 123 law enforcement officer deaths nationwide in 2015, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. With so many confrontations reported in the media, that number may seem low. However, those were 123 people who had parents, spouses, children, friends and fellow officers they left behind.
That number is high.
In 2014, 122 officers died. The causes of those deaths range from drownings to being strangled. (Statistics are not available for causes of death in 2015 as of yet.)
The biggest cause of death for officers in 2014? Forty-eight officers were shot to death. Rounding out the top four causes of death were auto crashes (32), job-related illnesses (18) and being struck by a vehicle (10).
Of the total deaths, 68 percent of the officers were wearing body armor when they died.
We’ve all come into contact with law enforcement officers in some way or another — under both positive and negative circumstances.
Many officers serve their community behind the scenes. We don’t always see the candy or stuffed animals an officer gives to a frightened child. We may not realize that an officer paid for diapers that someone was trying to shoplift. We don’t know how much an officer contributes to his or her church or community organization. We may not see the bag of groceries or medicine an officer delivers to someone in need who is snowed in.
Serving the community is in the blood of most officers.
In the Tri-State area, there have been several officer deaths in my memory. All of them have been memorable and have stuck with me as I see their loved ones surviving without them.
When you next come into contact with an officer, look beyond the uniform and gun. See the spouse who can’t sleep until he or she knows their officer is safely off their shift. Think about the parents who worry that their child might not make it home from work. Consider that there are children waiting at home to see mom or dad come through the door.
Remember the officer’s brothers and sisters in uniform who take that same risk.
We thank you and salute you.
Reach Marisa Anders at 423-254-5588 or on Twitter @newsgirl88.