“The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are as bold as a lion.” — Proverbs 28:1
Every now and again, there’s a horror story about a “bad” cop, an officer who violated the very laws they swore to uphold, someone who betrayed the trust of fellow officers and the citizens they serve. As a person who wholeheartedly believes in the rule of law, these high-profile media stories are gut-wrenching.
The important thing to remember is these stories are the minority. It’s the overwhelming amount of good “news” (that doesn’t make the front page) that stands the test of time.
Feel-good stories don’t always make the 6 o’clock news, but they represent the vast majority of law enforcement officers. Sometimes we do hear about them, when the story is big enough. For example, we all know what San Bernardino Police Department Detective Jorge Lozano said as he escorted dozens of survivors of the San Bernardino shooting: “Try to relax, everyone. Try to relax. I’ll take a bullet before you do. That’s for damned sure.” When commended for his actions, his humble response was, “It’s nothing short of what any other person in law enforcement would do.”
Detective Lozano is right. There are 14 law enforcement agencies that protect and serve Delaware County. These officers are the first ones we call when someone is breaking into our home; when we are victims of physical or sexual assault; when we have a medical emergency, etc. Whenever we need assistance, they’re there. They always show up, sometimes holding people’s hands as they deliver bad news, sometimes holding back tears themselves.
President Obama said: “Understand, our police officers put their lives on the line for us every single day. They’ve got a tough job to do to maintain public safety and hold accountable those who break the law.” These are not empty words. On average, one officer is killed somewhere in the United States every 61 hours. Since the first known line-of-duty death in 1791, more than 20,000 U.S. officers have made the ultimate sacrifice.
We ask officers to do more on a daily basis than most of us are willing to do in our lifetimes. I’m pretty sure most of us have never been the first responder on a fatal crash, or spoken with a shooting victim or the family member of a person who was murdered. We haven’t spent hours poring over horrible traumatizing computer images to hold child pornographers accountable, and we haven’t spoken with abused children. We ask these men and women to take in stride the horrible sights they see and deal with on a daily basis.
So no, it is not too much to ask that we recognize them. My office honors individual law enforcement officers several times a year with a “Top Cop Award” for a job well done. We post our thanks on our Facebook page and website. It’s not as prominent as the front page, but often it’s those small, social media pages and community bulletins where you will find the good “news.”
Carol O’Brien is the Delaware County prosecutor.