Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Protecting Our Police

I would encourage all of you to take the time to review the list of Maryland Police Officers who have fallen in the line of duty.  Two of those have been Howard County Police - Officer Scott Wheeler (2007) and Officer Randolph Brightwell (1961).  Many more Howard County citizens, serving in the Maryland State Police, have also died in the line of duty.

It takes only a brief review of these pages to understand that gunfire makes up less than half of the most serious dangers facing our men and women in blue.  Most police deaths are caused while performing traffic stops, whether that be during the chase or after the car has stopped.  That's why many police officers will tell you that the most stressful part of their job takes place in the time between them stopping a car and arriving at the driver-side window.

We've seen a surge of people honoring our police recently and I think that's a good thing.  However, we haven't necessarily seen a marked increase in police deaths correlated to this support.  Rather, there is a political football on the field.  Teams have been assigned.  You're either with us or agin' us.

But it does strike me as odd that this same political will is not stirred when a police officer is struck by a car during a traffic stop - a circumstance that may be much more amenable to political solution.  While unpopular, speed cameras are the result of heavy and persistent lobbying by police departments all over the state.  Why?  Not only because of the safety offered to those who find themselves working alongside our highways and byways, but also because the police know that the less traffic stops they are asked to perform, the less police officers in danger of being struck by an inattentive driver.  Yet there were no Blue Ribbon Facebook profiles when speed cameras were on the docket.

I welcome the support for our police.  I also echo what so many have said before - that you can honor our police and be concerned about how lethal force is being used in certain interactions.  In fact, I would say that if you talked to most police officers, they would explain their position as being the tip of the spear in enforcing what are often unnecessary crimes.  "But we're the ones you ask to do it, so we do."  Concerns about safety extend far beyond what cable media may suggest.

Have a great Wednesday doing what you love!