Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008

Law enforcement officers are also at risk of becoming victims

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Law-enforcement officers are not commonly thought of as victims by the general public. To the contrary, they are recognized as the armed and trained professionals who protect individuals, communities and property. However, when performing their assigned duties, they are often placed in various situations that can be both risky and extremely dangerous. Though they may perform their tasks according to policy, plan and protocol, recognition of that fact does not preclude them from being confronted with a challenge that could threaten, or even end, their lives.

It is a sad reality that this past year, 2007, has been one of the deadliest in more than a decade for law enforcement officers, with a 28.3 percent increase since last year with a tally of 186 officer deaths. Craig W. Floyd, chairman of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, acknowledges the disturbing situation. Most of us don't realize that an officer is being killed in America on average every other day, he says.

Police officers are people like anyone else. They have families and friends but, equally as important to them, is the solid bond they share with their colleagues that forms a type of united brotherhood. Most officers have a deep sense of commitment and believe in the true purpose of what they do. Consequently, they dedicate a large portion of their lives to the performance of their important duties that has a critical impact on the welfare of individuals and communities. Though they understand the associated and inherent dangers that accompany their crime-fighting efforts, they freely choose to give of themselves and face the possibility of having to sacrifice their safety and their lives.

When a police officer is injured or, even worse, killed, the effect of that outcome strikes a harrowing chord that reverberates within the core of fellow officers and leaves a startling echo in the community.

Realizing that law enforcement officers can become bona fide victims is unsettling because it brings home the fact that no one – not even cops – are immune from the devastating consequences of criminal victimization.

Law enforcement officers worldwide deserve recognition and gratitude for all they do. The sacrifices they make and the consequences of those sacrifices make them heroes not only in the eyes of their families, but for all of us whose lives are touched by their unrelenting devotion to make our communities substantially safer and more secure.

Karen L. Bune is an adjunct professor at George Mason and Marymount universities in Virginia. She is also a victim specialist in the state’s attorney’s office for Prince George’s County, but is not writing on behalf of the office.