Another Tragedy

image“To each there stands his own day; to all the time of life is short and irretrievable; but to extend one’s fame with deeds, that is the task of valor.”  (Virgil, “The Aeneid”)


On June 4th five RCMP officers were ambushed in New Brunswick. Three of them died. Two days ago, two officers were fatally ambushed in Las Vegas by a man and woman who went on to kill another person and then themselves. Policing can be a dangerous calling.

Sometimes both police and citizens forget that to wear a badge is to put one’s life on the line — endangering self — to protect those who cannot protect themselves.

What police do is what most citizens will not or cannot. When danger presents itself, when others run away, those who wear badges run towards danger.

On September 25, 1992, Officer Jerry Haaf, a man with whom I worked when I was a Minneapolis police officer, was shot in the back, ambushed, while he took a meal break at a restaurant. Unfortunately, that potential is there for all who are called to be police.

It is something we all know could happen. Police are vulnerable. I used to say that we need to realize that any one os us could be ambushed at any moment. Being vulnerable is what the job requires.

Whatever safety a police officer may enjoy comes from those whom he or she serves. Body armor and training help. Yet I always believed that if  I acted with fairness, restraint in my use of force, and compassionate, those who I served would come to care for me and, if necessary, protect me.

Maybe this was foolish, but it gave me great comfort when I walked and rode a beat in what came to be called “hostile neighborhoods.” I firmly believed  that those who lived on my beat knew me and would care for me.

If any officer worries all the time about his or her safety, becomes reticent and unwilling to act in the face of potential danger, he or she simply cannot do the important and necessary work police do.

Like Vigil wrote so many centuries ago, the task of valor is to extend one’s fame with deeds — good and honorable deeds.

Be careful out there and pray for those who have recently fallen and their families.