Today marks the beginning of a bittersweet week. All around the country, Law Enforcement Agencies will honor those who have given the Ultimate Sacrifice, laying down their lives for their brothers and sisters who wear the badge and the communities they serve. In Columbus we will hold our own service on Thursday evening and welcome all to attend as we remember those in our area who have died in the line of duty in 2013.
One of mine and Randy’s dear friends is on the list of Line of Duty deaths and reading Keith’s name on Thursday night will be one of the toughest things I have ever done. But while we lose over 100 officers to line of duty deaths nationally every year, we lose even more to suicide. There are many factors, as with any suicide, but shift work, the culture within Law Enforcement, personal issues, legal issues (both personal and professional), and yes, the pressures placed on officers by our society and culture, all play a part in Law Enforcement suicide. We have experienced that in Columbus, in our own Law Enforcement family. It is a tragic reality of The Job. And just as with suicide in any other circumstance, we are faced with questions that will never be answered, guilt, and sorrow that runs deep.
As a Law Enforcement family and supporters, what can we do to help? How can we help lower the number of line of duty deaths and suicides?
- MOVE OVER, PEOPLE! When you see an officer on the side of the road, slow down and move over.
- Take time to thank your law enforcement officers when you see them. Whether it’s in a restaurant and you actually say “thank you for what you do” or it’s at a stoplight and you give a friendly smile and wave, be kind. It makes a difference.
- If you know a LEO, are related to a LEO, have an acquaintance that is an LEO, lift them up. Lend an ear. Support their spouses and children. Be there. Offer to pick the kids up one day. Babysit on a night the LEO is off so that they can go on a date. Cut their grass. Be a friend.
Police Week is more than the memorial service, although that is a huge and incredibly important part. It’s more than the tragedies that we have experienced as the Law Enforcement Community. This week is also about appreciating what these men and women do. It’s about showing support. And when I say support, it’s more than a blue ribbon on your car or lapel, even though they love seeing that. It’s more than a wreath, even though it’s beautiful and again, means a lot to see. It’s more than a Facebook banner picture and it’s more than a tweet, although ALL of those things are awesome.
Police Week is personal. Shake a hand. Buy a meal. Smile. Say thank you. There may be officers in your community hurting. There may be officers grieving the loss of a fellow LEO. Be kind. Show your gratitude. As a LEO wife, I can tell you, it turns their day around. It means something to them.
Remember, you sleep peacefully at night because these men and women stand ready to do violence on your behalf. They leave home every day, not knowing if they will return. And, as we look to the Memorial Services across the nation this week, we know that some of them give their lives to their last breath in defense of their own community. That is something to be thankful for and proud of.