Thanks to the everyday heroes

National Police Week 2010 began Sunday and continues through May 15. Throughout the week, various activities will take place around the nation to honor those who have fallen in the line of duty in the past year.

The recent tragedy in the cities might be fresh in people’s minds.

On May 1, Sgt. Joseph Bergeron of the Maplewood Police Department was killed in the line of duty when he responded to a report of a carjacking. As he exited his squad car, a man approached him and opened fire.

When I first heard about it, I thought I heard the officer was part of the Minneapolis Police Department. I froze in horror. Not only because an officer was killed, but because a friend of our family is part of the Minneapolis Police Department.

Finding out it wasn’t our friend was a relief, but I was still saddened by the news. Bergeron resided very near where I grew up. He grew up in a community not far from where I was raised. He left behind a wife and two daughters.

On average, one law enforcement officer is killed in the line of duty somewhere in the United States every 53 hours. Since the first known line-of-duty death in 1792, nearly 19,000 U.S. law enforcement officers have died as a result of their job.

This year during the official roll call of fallen officers, the names of two Minnesota law enforcement officers who died in 2009 will be honored. (Bergeron will be on next year’s roll call.)

Officer David Loeffler died May 29, 2009. He had been on the job with the Minneapolis Police Department for six months in 1997 when he stopped to help a drunk man who was walking in traffic. As he spoke to the man in front of his patrol car, another vehicle struck him and the car, severing one of his legs. The driver of the vehicle was drunk. Twelve years later, Loeffler died from complications of the original injury.

In September 2009, Officer Richard Crittenden of the North St. Paul Police Department died protecting a victim. A male subject had violated on order for protection at a female victim’s residence. Crittenden and an officer from the Maplewood Police Department arrived on the scene, and when the suspect attempted to attack the female, Crittenden jumped in to protect her. During the struggle, the suspect was able to gain control of the officer’s gun and opened fire, killing him. The Maplewood officer was wounded, but she returned fire and killed the suspect.

I found statistics that said the number of officers shot and killed nationally surged 22 percent from 2008 to 2009. Officer death overall declined, from 138 in 2008 to 116 in 2009.

Before getting involved in the crime beat at the Daily Globe, I knew a few peace officers, but after six years of working with cops from several counties on an almost daily basis, I know quite a few men and women of law enforcement. Some of them know me well enough to ask about my kids by name and ask if I’ve caught any fish lately. In many cases, I can ask them the same questions … is the new baby sleeping through the night yet? How are the wedding plans coming along? What did you do for the girls’ birthdays?

There were peace officers who sent flowers when I was in a car accident, and several of them called to express concern when my husband was injured last summer. They call my cell phone to tease me about stuff or give me ideas for articles. They send me silly email jokes they think I will enjoy.

They are indeed cops, but they are also people. Good people.

I also know most of the local canine officers by name (I love dogs) and met most of them when they were still pups. Laika, Bailey, Thor, Chase … I’ve scratched the ears of each one, tossed toys for them to chase and taken an active interest in their successes.
The thought of any of those peace officers — human or canine — getting hurt in the line of duty just makes me cringe. As horrified as I was by Bergeron’s death, the families of peace officers everywhere must have stopped and gasped. Then spent several moments beating back the fear they keep tamped down daily.

It’s National Police Week. Take a moment to thank an officer for the work he or she does on a regular basis. Sometimes we take for granted the danger that can be lurking around each and every corner for them. People tend to thank soldiers and veterans, but remember that what they do overseas, our peace officers do in our back yards and on our highways and city streets.

Thanks, you guys.

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