It is time to rally around our police

<strong>The Way I See It</strong> Jason Hawk, editor

The Way I See It Jason Hawk, editor

Another police officer has been gunned down and his partner injured, this time in San Diego.

The shooting came late Thursday when the California officers, who both belong to an anti-gang unit, made what they thought would be a routine traffic stop.

The news might seem far away but the aftershocks can be felt here at home. This is the time for our communities in Lorain County to rally around the men and women we entrust to serve and protect. Shake their hands. Say thank you.

Thirty four officers have already been killed this year by gunfire in America, outpacing January-to-July totals for 2015. In all, 41 police were fatally shot last year (the leading cause of death, though was traffic accidents, which killed 48 others), according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

In the past decade, 2011 remains the deadliest year with 73 officers dying of firearms wounds.

Since the massacre of five police officers in Dallas and three others in Baton Rouge, I’ve asked a few officers how the danger weighs on their minds. Amherst Ptl. Michael Taliano said the killings have really rattled the ranks, changing the way they approach every shift. Taliano has always struck me as extremely level-headed and not prone to exaggeration — when he says he feels targeted, it’s not a statement to be discarded.

I look closely each week at police activity, sifting through incident reports from departments up and down Rt. 58 and seeing the vast sweep of duties officers serve. Dog’s loose? Call the police. Some idiot drunkard decides to start a fight? Call the police. A man in need of mental health treatment runs into the street? The police become interventionists.

Speeding, school violence, marital troubles, road rage, car break-ins, a missing purse, heroin overdoses, litter, identity theft, rape, an oil spill, a dented fender, a weirdo skulking in the bushes, bad checks, custody issues, shoplifting — we want them to solve all our problems.

It’s a stressful job, and not just for the officers. Their spouses and children wonder every day whether something will go wrong.

This praise isn’t a free pass; criticism of the long arm of the law is fair. Police are given extraordinary power in the name of public safety and they’ll always be held to a higher standard because of that. Journalists will always keep a watchful eye on the way police operate in the same way we do politicians and other power brokers, and so should you. We have seen specific officers, both locally and on the national stage, fall from grace and be stripped of their jobs for breaking the public trust. It is never a story we enjoy writing.

But don’t mistake our scrutiny of police power for a hatred of police officers. That’s simply not the case. Those who wear the uniform deserve respect, plain and simple.

With that in mind, I think local leaders need to reexamine the resources we allot to our police departments. It might be time to spend a little more money making sure officers are properly outfitted and compensated for the day-to-day rigors of the job and deadly situations that might arise.

The Way I See It Jason Hawk, editor Way I See It Jason Hawk, editor