Peace officers deserve honor each and every day

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

It seems American flags fly at half-staff far to often, but if you notice them in that position today, there’s a good reason.

Today is Peace Officers Memorial Day, part of Police Week, observed in the United States in tribute to local, state and federal peace officers who have died or been disabled in the line of duty.

Research for this column revealed a number of depressing statistics -- according to the FBI, from 1980 to 2018, an average of 85 law enforcement officers were “feloniously killed” each year, most often involving a firearm.

Total numbers were up in 2018, 144, from 129 in 2017 and 159 in 2016.

Of those killed in 2018, 134 were male, 10 were female, the average age was 41 and the average length of service was 12 years.

Most were shot or fatally injured in car crashes. Others died from heart attacks, drownings and cancer and other illnesses developed by responders to the World Trade Center attack.

A visit to the Nebraska State Patrol’s “Fallen Officer Memorial” page includes photos of 11 officers, from Trooper Loyal Zink, badge No. 43, who died in an automobile accident while pursuing a suspect west of Sidney on June 13, 1945, to Trooper Mark Wagner, badge No. 168, who died from an accidental gunshot wound during a training exercise in North Platte.

Tragedies like deaths in the line of duty generate news stories, as do officer-involved shootings and other instances where officers’ actions are called into question.

What doesn’t make the news are the vast majority of incidents where officers have taken timely, appropriate action to de-escalate situations that could turn violent, avoiding tragic results.

If you’ve had an interaction with a police officer lately, you’ve most likely been treated in a courteous, professional manner, even if it resulted in a ticket or warning.

Like us, they just want to do their job to the best of their ability, and then go home to their family.

Unlike most of us, doing their job sometimes making split-second, life-or-death decisions that could follow them for the rest of their lives.

Those flags, flying at half staff, remind us of the debt we owe those who paid the ultimate price in performing their duties.

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