Op-Ed

Law-enforcement officers deserve the public's appreciation

These are tumultuous times for law enforcement officers. Tragic events in places like Ferguson, Mo., and North Charleston, S.C. have ignited a national debate concerning police methods.

The debate is entirely appropriate. The wholesale condemnation of law-enforcement officers is not.

The recent horrific killing of a brave Kentucky State Police trooper in Western Kentucky is a stark reminder of the risks willingly taken by our law-enforcement officers in order to keep us safe.

The law-enforcement profession, like any other, is not populated by perfect people. There are a very few bad officers, and there are times when good officers make bad decisions under the intense pressure of the moment. Effective policing requires a high level of trust between law-enforcement officers and the communities they serve.

A national discussion that serves to improve law-enforcement methods and increase community trust is entirely appropriate and a valuable public dialogue. No public servant is above criticism, including those of us who work in the criminal-justice system.

The national discussion concerning law-enforcement methods should not, however, overlook a simple but crucial fact: The overwhelming majority of law enforcement officers are good and dedicated people engaged in incredibly difficult jobs.

Never has the work of a law-enforcement officer been more complex, difficult or dangerous. Recent events in our commonwealth have made the nature of the work all too clear. Every day thousands of men and women who wear the badge work diligently to make our communities better places to live. They never know when a routine shift will immediately escalate into a life and death situation.

When that happens, our law enforcement officers are expected to stand tall, make good decisions in a split second, and protect the innocent from those who would do them harm. Sometimes, they make the ultimate sacrifice while doing so.

Our law-enforcement officers engage in many thankless and unseen tasks that are essential to protecting our homes, our families and our freedoms from all sorts of threats, both great and small. As we go about our daily lives, we do so in relative safety because the men and women who wear the badge are willing to stand in the breach. We know that those who choose this profession do it neither for wealth nor fame. They deserve our appreciation and respect.

As United States attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky, I am privileged to work closely with local, state and federal law-enforcement officers representing many agencies. I am deeply honored to be associated with these truly admirable men and women and the outstanding work they do for us all.

The next time you see a police officer would be a great time to simply say thanks.

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