National Police Memorial Week
JOHN MacMILLEN, Ph.D.
Passed by then President John F. Kennedy in 1962 was the Congressional designation of Police Memorial Day (May 15) to honor law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.
Police killings are on the increase and police suicides are running a fast second. Our society has changed drastically in the past 50 years. Police were treated with respect and did their jobs unharnessed by today’s social media and press. Granted some officers of the past used too much force and intimidation, but through training officers have improved. Social media has played aa role in what’s happening now. Open Facebook, Twitter or other sites and you find fake news, with social media intentionally causing agitation.
The ability to be anonymous seems to give some people permission to post comments they would never have the courage to say directly to the person they are posting about. You can find videos of a police shooting based on a judgment call but you don’t know the facts or the video is shortened or altered. It is all the negative interchanges that interest everyone.
The news media has come from those very well respected like Walter Cronkite who “told the news and allowed us to make up our minds.” Nowadays we have talking heads who spectacularizes the news just to sell enhance the ratings. They analyze and come to judgment as immediately and without the full story.
It may take law enforcement and the courts many months to sort it all out and while they do that, the news people shadow their every move to “critique.”
If you don’t think police killings don’t happen in Clinton County you might recall Patrolman Robert Probst was killed in the alley behind Addie’s on East Main Street. Other local officers have suffered fatal heart attacks; unfortunately that is not part of the record.
Officers who have been injured on duty are many and never make the news. For some of us the legacy of these injuries and illness plague us for the remainder of our years. Once we retire we are dismissed like a pawn in a greater social scale. We aren’t newsworthy and respected as we once were. Most folks think policemen have great pension benefit, but that is not the case.
Our officers in Lock Haven have not had a pension increase since 1994. The financial burdens on some officers are beyond your thoughts about it. Men and women become police officers for many reasons among trying to contribute to the safety and welfare of our community.
It is a noble profession with honest, hardworking people who are determined to help keep the peace under very difficult social situations.
My condolences to those families who have lost an officer killed on duty, and to those families who have lost their loved ones to the stress and illnesses caused by their commitment to serve while giving all.