I’ve covered the “cops and courts” beat for many years for the Wise County Messenger. I’ve had a chance to see a side of police work that the general public might not.
For most, an interaction with the police is not a positive experience. Maybe you’ve been stopped for speeding, or you’re filing a theft report. People normally aren’t in the best of moods in these situations.
The public rarely sees the officer called to a home in the middle of the night, not knowing where a prowler might be or what weapons he has. They’re in that situation so we don’t have to be.I’ve been working on a story for our sister publication in Justin about the one-year anniversary of a police shooting. The officer was shot in the arm, and he returned fire, killing the suspect. During the incident, the suspect also shot his own father and grandfather.
Working on stories like this reminds me of the risks officers and other first responders take as they get involved in dangerous situations.
No one around here will ever forget the sacrifice made by Bridgeport Sgt. Randy White. It’s been nearly three-and-a-half years since he was killed in the line of duty – struck by the driver of a stolen car leading police on a chase as it entered the city limits of Bridgeport. White was attempting to wave traffic off the highway, trying to move people out of harm’s way.
I have much respect for police officers, but I wouldn’t say I’m a “cheerleader” for them. I’ve done stories over the years on police officers who made poor decisions and faced the consequences of their actions. Like anyone whose salary is paid from public funds, we have a responsibility to hold them accountable for their actions.
But we should also recognize and thank them for the work they do to keep us safe. Since 9/11, there seems to be more of an emphasis on honoring the work and sacrifices of first responders. That’s a good thing, but we shouldn’t just think about it once a year.
The residents of Wise County will soon have a great opportunity to meet their local police officers (and other first responders) and thank them for their service at upcoming National Night Out events.
The Decatur police department will hold its National Night Out event 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 2, on the Square. The Sheriff’s Office is still planning its event, tentatively scheduled for late October. This is a great time for the public to visit with officers in a more “positive” environment than on the side of the road.
The purpose of these events is to heighten crime and drug prevention awareness; generate support for and participation in local anticrime programs; strengthen neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships and, according to the National Night Out’s official website, “send a message to criminals letting them know that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back.”
So the next time you are pulled over for going a little too fast, try to remember that the officer is there to protect you and others. You might even thank the officer for his or her service to the community.