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The Difference Deputies Make in Our Lives

February 26, 2014

Having spent the majority of my adult life working in law enforcement, first as a line officer, then later as a supervisor, and finally as a senior member of management, I found most of my tasks and duties were similar to those done by my counterparts in other industries.

For example, I was asked to interact with the public, write daily reports and cover certain geographical sectors. I was asked to  handle routine assignments and personnel matters, manage programs and services, develop and present training programs, write policy & procedure, speak to the public and the press, and attend conferences and training seminars, and network with co-workers and business partners.

Yes, many of the aspects of my job were similar to those of my friends and family members in other fields. But my job, my industry, was significantly different when you consider the risks and hazards which were present in the daily work environment. Outside of the military, no other industry expects their employees will be violently assaulted, and/or killed while carrying out their routine duties. But this is certainly the case for those in law enforcement.  

Don’t get me wrong, I realize employees in other industries are killed while doing their job, and it is no less sad for the families involved when they lose a loved one. In fact, according to a recent report in Forbes Magazine there are a number of professions which are even more dangerous than that of being a law enforcement officer (among them: lumberjack, fisherman and airplane pilot). The way they calculate the danger is divide the number of deaths into the number of workers in the industry to get a ratio. However, these employees’ deaths are for the most part accidental and unintentional, which contrast greatly with the way law enforcement officers lose their life when engaged in combat with suspects intent on killing them or when responding to 911 calls.   

Over the years, the number of officers killed in the line of duty has declined significantly and much of the reduction is probably in relation to better training programs and the advent of safety equipment in vehicle and personal safety equipment used by law enforcement. 

However, despite this progress, last year 111 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty in our nation. Four of these officers worked as deputies in our state. Some died as a result of traffic accidents and others died because they were targeted by assailants intent on killing them and others.   

Such was the case earlier this month, in Taylor County, when a disgruntled employee arrived at his workplace, heavily armed, with the intent of killing as many people as possible. As fate would have it, an off duty deputy was also at the business and immediately came to the aid of his fellow citizens who were being attacked. The deputy killed the assailant but was severely wounded. A few days later, the events played out again, in Orange County, when an armed assailant shot and killed a deputy who was investigating the report of a car burglary.

Both of the officers have wives and small children at home. Both of these officers understood the risks of their profession. Both of them were trained to deal with such encounters. Both of them responded with bravery and resolve when the call came. Both of them are heroes. But only one of them was spared.  One will have his name etched on the law enforcement memorial in Washington, D.C. and Tallahassee and the other will return to duty to await the next call.

So you might ask yourself why these officers take such risks. Why do their families knowing the dangers support them in their duties? It’s certainly not the pay (there are many jobs that pay a great deal more). It’s not the great work hours (most work shift work for years). It’s not the great respect they generally receive from the average citizen when enforcing the law. So what motivates them?      

Well, I have been around these men and women for 35 years, and I think I know the answer. It’s because they love their families and communities that they are willing to take the risk. It’s because they want to make a DIFFERENCE in people’s lives and they do it every day. It’s because they know someone must be willing to patrol our streets, answer the calls for assistance in the middle of the night, and apprehend those that would do us harm. It’s because they want to serve their community and make it a safer and better place all.

So the next time you see a law enforcement officer on duty, think about the risk they take and the sacrifice they make for us every day. And if you get a chance, tell them you appreciate their service to the community.

Until next time stay safe!