The Times West Virginian

Opinion

May 15, 2014

Remember sacrifices of law enforcement today and every day

Of the 20,267 names included on the National Law Enforcement Memorial, 175 belong to those killed in the line of duty in West Virginia.

That’s 175 men and women who have sacrificed their lives in order to keep the rest of us safe.

Today is National Peace Officers Memorial Day and this week is National Police Week, which President John F. Kennedy proclaimed in 1962 as a way to pay special recognition to the law enforcement officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty for the safety and protection of others.

It’s in honor of people like Marshall Lee Bailey of the West Virginia State Police, who died in 2012 after being shot while conducting a traffic stop.

It’s in honor of people like Michael Todd May of the Monongalia County Sheriff’s Department, who died in 2012 when his patrol vehicle was struck by an impaired hit-and-run driver who was evading the police.

A little closer to home, it’s in honor of people like Denzil O. Lockard of the Rivesville Police Department, who died in 1958 after he was struck and killed while directing traffic at an intersection.

But these are only three of the 175 individuals who paid the ultimate price.

Choosing to enter a career in law enforcement certainly isn’t one made on a whim. It means rigorous training. It means long days away from family members. It means risking one’s life every time the uniform is worn. The men and women who choose this profession have dedicated themselves to a selfless job of making our communities safer and keeping our children safe at school.

But it’s not without risks. A total of 1,501 law enforcement officers have died in the line of duty during the past 10 years. That translates to one death every 58 hours, or 150 per year. Last year alone, there were 100 law enforcement officers killed.

There are more than 900,000 sworn law enforcement officers serving in the United States, and according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports, an estimated 1.2 million violent crimes occurred nationwide in 2011. Yes, the brave men and women working in law enforcement have pledged to fight those crimes, but it’s come with a price — since the first recorded police death in 1791, there have been more than 20,000 law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.

That’s why the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial is so important. The name of each man and woman killed in the line of duty is engraved on the memorial’s walls, serving as a permanent reminder of the selfless sacrifice that was made.

So while today is a special day set aside to pay recognition to fallen law enforcement officers, we should make the effort to remember their sacrifice each and every day of the year.

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