I recently got a ticket for speeding. My husband and I were headed down south for a funeral. Driving at 3 a.m. in the morning on a lonely stretch of I-65, I was over-caffeinated and tired, not paying attention to my speed. I should have been more careful and certainly deserved the fine.
After the state trooper politely lectured me, telling me he had worked enough accidents for one night and did not care to work another one, he wrote me a ticket, told me to drive safely, and sent me on my way.
As I pulled off, I got to thinking. What if it were my job to approach a car on a sparsely traveled stretch of dark highway with no way of knowing who or what I was about to walk up on? Officers know that traffic stops such as this can, and sometimes do, turn deadly. I would be frightened. I think most of us would.
Something is going on with law enforcement in this country. Nationally, two-thirds of police departments say they are having trouble finding new recruits and are now seriously understaffed. As baby boomers retire, the ranks of our police departments are thinning. Once considered a good career choice by past generations, it seems that many younger Americans are not feeling the call to service.
Tragically, the number of police officers killed in the line of duty has increased in recent years. Being fatally shot is now the leading cause of on-the-job deaths, replacing traffic accidents as the leading cause in past years.
Even more alarming is the increase in suicides among the ranks. For the third year in a row, the number of police suicides has outpaced the number of on-the-job deaths. This is a heart-breaking statistic.
What is going on with our men and women in blue?
The fact that certain politicians and some in the media always seem to “rush to judgement” over every police shooting must certainly be a source of constant frustration. Police officers are often vilified before all the facts are even known. And let’s face it, the job has gotten a lot scarier. While overall crime is down, that does not change the fact that a segment of our population is armed and dangerous and more inclined to “shoot it out” with police than ever before. A simple disturbance call can turn into a gun battle. Yet they are willing to knock on that door never knowing what is on the other side.
And what about you and me? Police departments need the public’s support. Feeling unsupported and unappreciated can only lead to despair and low morale. When was the last time any of us said “thank you” to the people that show up when things go bump in the night, the ones that confront the unknown danger to protect us all?
I have always thought of our police officers as “quiet heroes.” They go about doing a dangerous job while never seeking thanks or praise from the public they serve. We need to wake up and take seriously what is happening with law enforcement in this country. The warning signs are everywhere. If we don’t heed them, then maybe the next time we dial 911 – no one will come.
— Bethony Barker, Jeffersonville