The police deserve better
Lowell Police waving a car to slow down Saturday afternoon at the scene of fatality on Pawtucket Boulevard in Lowell near the former MA/COM building, where Jose and Fernanda Medina were killed Thursday evening while walking on the sidewalk by a vehicle that veered off the road. (SUN/Julia Malakie)

Police officers across the country are quitting their jobs. They’ve had enough.

Phrases like “defund the police” which were laughable just a month ago have now become actual policy positions in many municipalities. Law enforcement officers are barred from using restrooms, parking garages and even public transportation during their shifts.

They’re so castigated and maligned by both private citizens and elected officials that the culture in many places has deemed the defense of cops is a crime that rises to the level of cancellation.

Not only that, in these unstable times they are frequently the targets of violence from both ends of the political spectrum, as we saw in California when federal officers were shot and one of them killed by right-wing extremists hoping to use the cover of the protests to kill police and other government ities. One of them killed another law enforcement officer while he was being arrested.

The story of George Floyd is horrific and the role the police played in his death cannot be denied.  Watching the videotape, it seems obvious to many that man could still be alive if any of those officers had shown a little mercy and compassion towards him.

Floyd’s killers are facing justice as we speak and there is unanimous agreement that they should.  Rarely is the nation so united in its conviction.

Those police are not all police, though, and we should stop acting as if they are. The vast majority of those who uphold the law in our society help keep all of us safe, regardless of race or ideology, and we should show them our appreciation, not let them be targeted by violent political actors. Their job is already dangerous enough.

In 2018, 185 members of law enforcement died in the line of duty in the United States, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, a database of fallen police officers.

In 2019 that number was 147 and this year we have lost 109 officers so far.

The latest fallen officer listed is Julian Keen Jr.

Keen was off duty but put himself on duty when he attempted to stop a hit-and-run driver on Sunday, June 14 in LaBelle, Florida.

He had been in law enforcement for six years and was beloved in his town.  According to the Fort Myers News-Press, Keen was known as “LaBelle’s son, a high school football star and 凯发真人试玩首页homecoming-king-turned-alligator-wrestler-turned-community-pillar.”

Hendry County Sheriff Steve Whidden told the crowd of over 5,00 mourners, “Julian brought this community together like no one I’ve ever seen. Julian was a truly special individual.”

Julian Keen was a black man who was just thirty years-old.  He was raised in part by Patrick and Mona O’Bannon. The O’Bannons are a white couple and they were surrounded by people of every color from every corner of town during the vigil last week.

Patrick O’Bannon was overcome with emotion as he addressed the mourners.

“He was my son,” he said through tears.  I had to try to get myself together to be the man my son wanted me to be…Thank you. Let’s do better, that’s all I can say.”

Law enforcement officers have stories too. They have families and loved ones and love and heartache just like anybody else. They are men and women, white and black and Hispanic and Asian.

In the process of writing this another name has been added to the list of fallen officers. Tennessee Police Officer Destin Legieza was killed in an early morning vehicle crash. Like Julian Keen, he was also just thirty years-old. He leaves a wife.

Legieza’s father and grandfather had also been police officers.

“My husband, Destin, was the best man I’ve ever met,” Heather Legieza told the Tennessean. “He had so many friends and family who loved him. He loved the community of Brentwood and always knew he wanted to be a police officer. To my best friend, I love you forever and I miss you.”

We must honor the brave men and women of law enforcement who have fallen in the line of duty.  It is not a political statement to do so.