Who will be the next generation of law enforcement officers? Who is going to perform CPR on that baby whose mentally challenged mother doesn’t understand why she isn’t breathing anymore? Who is going to share a notepad for communications when a deaf wife needs to be told her husband died in his sleep when he was on vacation?
Who is going to offer dignity to the woman that hung herself after being told she wasn’t pretty enough? Who is going to calm the dad after his son was sexually assaulted from an online predator? Who is going to sit in silent prayer with the mom when she finds out her son died of an overdose?
Who is going to go look for a cop killer, hiding in the woods during a driving rainstorm at 2 a.m.? Who is going to serve the warrant at the house where an active meth lab is ready to ignite? Who is going to change the flat tire of the elderly couple trying to make it to their daughter’s wedding in time? Who is going to help push a stuck parent out of the snow on their way to drop their kids off at school? Who is going to take their K-9 to show and tell at school?
Who is going to go into a crowded bar to break up a fight? Who is going to reunite a lost pet with their family? Who is going to listen to the last words of a troubled young man before he puts a twelve gauge in his mouth? Who is going to check on the World War II veteran who lives as a shut in and has no family to spend time with?
Who is going to escort a sexual assault victim to the hospital where she will be photographed, probed, and tested for the sake of evidence? Who is going to tell the parents their child died in a crash? Who is going to hold the hand of a lost child at a waterpark until they can find their parents? Who is going to negotiate a dispute between two neighbors?
Who is going to hug a grandmother when she finds out her two-year-old grandson was ejected from her rolling vehicle, and he doesn’t have a scratch on him? Who is going to negotiate with the homicide suspect who survived a jump off the Broadway bridge and is now clinging to a riverside cliff? Who is going to wrestle the 11-year-old off the bridge railing when he wanted to end his life? Who is going to buy lemonade from every stand you pass on patrol?
Who is going to brace for the impact of a drunk driver hitting you? Who is going to talk down the five-year-old girl clutching a sharp chunk of wood she is threatening to impale herself with after destroying her foster family’s kitchen? Who is going to stand by the side of a highway, waiting to throw road spikes out, as a large SUV is hurtling towards you at 110 mph? Who is going to read a bedtime story to the young boy who is scared that his arrested father is going to come back and hurt his mommy?
Who is going to comfort the little girl who had a nervous breakdown when her mom’s boyfriend physically and mentally tortured her? Who is going to stop at Bowman Park and challenge the kids to a pick-up game? Who is going to leave clothes and toys from Santa overnight at the homes of families you know cannot afford anything for Christmas? Who is going to buy the homeless veteran lunch and a bus ticket to the VA?
These are a just a few of the things I did in my service as a law enforcement officer. Some of these things are times I will never forget, and others are times I wish I could. Who is next to wear the badge if we continue to accept the growing social, political, legal, and physical attacks against our police? It won’t be the new-age bullies of our society who generalize all police as bad, isolate police from our communities, silence or omit the voices of police to the issues, and outwardly demonstrate bias against the law enforcement profession as they condemn all other forms of bias.
In honor of the 24,878 law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty, and specifically in honor of Adams County Sheriff’s Deputy Mike Shannon and Sauk County Sheriff’s Deputy Rich Weinke, please take time this week to remember the sacrifices our nation’s law enforcement officers have made. This is National Police Memorial Week and the best way to honor those who have fallen is to voice strong support for the ethical and honest officers who currently serve. For if we don’t, who is going to wear the badge next?
Brian Landers, a former Wisconsin Dells mayor, writes a weekly column for Capital Newspapers. Reach him at email@example.com.