Tragedy reminds all of dangers law officers face

Published 8:00 pm Sunday, May 6, 2012

To the rank and file of us, our job – whether we consider it a career or just a way to pay bills – isn’t something that puts us in harm’s way.

     But for the men and women who serve us as law enforcement officers, a day at work can be dangerous, even deadly. This past week’s tragedy in Pearl was a stark reminder of that fact.

     On Tuesday, while trying to serve an arrest warrant, Pearl Police Department investigator Mike Walter was killed, investigator Dave McCarley was shot and investigator Shaun Terwilliger was injured in a shootout with a man suspected in the sexual battery of a 9-year-old girl.

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       Carnell Gaines Jr., 30, had previous run-ins with the law and had been released after going to prison for probation violations. Gaines was killed in the shootout with law officers.

     In all likelihood, the officers had routinely served arrest warrants on suspects countless times before. The uncertain thing for law enforcement officers, be they city police, county deputies, state troopers or federal agents, is that they never know when incidents like Tuesday’s can happen. For that, they must always be prepared.

     Like their military counterparts on battle lines around the world, law officers are prepared to give their lives in defense of their fellow citizens. For that, they deserve our gratitude and appreciation.

     For many of us, however, our only encounter with law enforcement officers comes when we are stopped for speeding or some other traffic violation, or happen upon a roadblock on a street or highway somewhere. We grumble about the delay the stop is causing or grouse even more if we are given a citation.

     But consider for a moment who else could have been stopped by officers. What crimes could have been prevented by their routine patrolling or common roadblock practices?

     An intoxicated driver could be removed from the streets, possibly preventing a fatal accident only a few moments later. Hidden drugs could be found stashed inside a vehicle and confiscated, preventing their harmful effects from impacting untold numbers of people.

     Keeping citizens safe is often summed up in the words, “To Protect and Serve.” It’s unfortunate it takes a tragedy to remind us what that really means.