In the first two weeks of 2019 we have already lost seven law enforcement officers in the United States. Six in the line of duty and one to a domestic violence incident (off-duty). That’s one every other day.
One of the officers killed in the line of duty this year was my friend Officer Dale Woods of the Colerain Township, Ohio, Police Department. The department is located north of Cincinnati, Ohio. Officer Woods was struck and killed by a passing truck while investigating a traffic crash.
I was honored to have worked with Dale for over a decade in a neighboring jurisdiction. As I remember Dale, he was a 5%er: the type of officer who would go out and proactively protect the residents in his community. This week many media outlets were remembering Dale and several stories came to light, including the time he rescued a blind lady from a house fire and a viral video of Dale tossing football with local kids.
I just got back from his funeral today. I saw a father there clutching his young daughter and son. Not all in attendance knew Dale personally, but they know the job. They know him in that respect—the brotherhood of this work. They know the risks. And like that father I witnessed with his children, they know that this noble calling might claim their life.
2019 is unfortunately shaping up to be—once again—another deadly year for law enforcement officers in the United States. According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, line of duty deaths are 33% higher when compared to the same time last year.
As a chief, I know that my greatest resource are the men and women who put those uniforms on each shift. I know they are husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, grandmas, grandpas, and more. Some of them work other jobs to make ends meet. Irrespective of their obligations and duties outside of the job, they are a part of this brotherhood. For that, we should all be thankful.
The sad fact, however, is that the only time we come together seems too often to be at funerals. I want every city, county, state, tribal, hospital, and university police officer to know that their leaders truly care about them. Therefore, I am issuing a challenge.
I challenge every Chief, Sheriff, Captain, Deputy Chief, Lieutenant, and Major to spend time this Friday, January 18, 2019, “on the beat” with the men and women of their respective organizations – regardless of agency size. In fact, the bigger the agency, the more leaders you have to lend to this challenge. In memory of Dale, and all the officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice this year, let’s show them how much we (formal leaders) appreciate them. No excuses, just get out there. Prove to those who we lead that we Remember Where We Came From.
Getting stuck behind the desk is very easy. However, you cannot effectively lead from a swivel chair. Getting out on the beat with our officers is THE BEST WAY to show our guys and gals that we appreciate the work they do. Wear your vest, do your best!
I challenge every law enforcement leader to spend some time Friday out on the road with your personnel (bonus points if you spend time with night shift). Let’s show them that we take officer safety seriously and support them in everything they do.
Use the hashtag #rememberwhereyoucamefrom on social media to show everyone that you know what your community’s about and you appreciate your officers efforts to keep them safe.