Friday, December 31, 2010

Law enforcement officers protect us, let's protect them

On this New Year’s Holiday, I would like to step back from the normal blog to tell a personal story that will never leave my memory.

On a pleasant summer afternoon when I was 12 years old, the family went for an outing. My father drove the car with my mother next to him in the front seat. My brother and I were in the back seat, he on the passenger’s side and I on the driver’s side. The windows were down because it was hot. We were all talking while I was fighting with my brother.

Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, four guys on motorcycles quickly passed our car. The speed and noise gave everyone except my father a fright. He had seen the bikes coming from a long way off in the rearview mirror so he was prepared. The guys on the bikes thought they saw a familiar face and slowed down dramatically. My father had to slow the car down to avoid hitting them because they were taking up both sides of the road and he couldn’t pass them. As they recognized my dad, one stayed in front to keep our car in check while the others slowed to come up beside the driver’s side of the car.

Sitting just behind my father in the car with the window down, I had a front row seat to something this country boy hadn’t seen very often. They starting yelling obscenities at my father at the same time they were giving me the evil eye. After a few more obscene jesters, they drove on ahead and disappeared from sight.

Everyone in the car starting asking my father what that was all about. We were all scared and in shock. My father, the quite guy he was, didn’t say much other than he had put them in jail one time.

My father was a cop in the Shelby Police Department. It was something he had always wanted to be and was very proud of it. The Detroit Police had stricter guidelines so he wasn’t able to join the force there. He did finally get on the force at Shelby and retired from there after many years.

The bad guys are out there. They would love to know more about the police so they can carry out attacks of terror and seek revenge for whatever punishment they received for the crimes they had committed. The above story is just one of many my father and family experienced over the years. It is likely that thousands take place every day in America to other officers and families.

In Tacoma, Washington, a man convicted of stalking and assault has asked for the names, addresses and other personal information of police officers that work for the city. He has requested the information through the Freedom of Information act. The Tacoma Police Union Local No. 6 has filed a motion with the courts to prevent the individual from receiving the information on the officers. Unless the courts place an injunction on the request, the bad guys, like those mentioned above, will be able to get all the information they need to carry out attacks on the officers and the families in their homes.

It was announced in the past couple of days by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund that more law enforcement officers have lost their lives in the line of duty in 2010 than in 2009. The number of deaths in 2010 spiked to 160 from an almost 40 year low of 117 in 2009. As a law enforcement officer, the risk of losing your life is very real.

The right of people to know who is working for the government and what they are doing is not an absolute right. When there is a real risk that innocent people will be hurt by the right to know, then the community must prevent it from happening. In the Tacoma case, the courts need to block not only this individual from receiving the information, but all such requests need to be prevented.

It is important that the citizens of a community have oversight of their government. But, in the case of law enforcement officers, who place their lives on the line, there is plenty of oversight by the city government. There is no need to provide the personal information that would endanger so many lives.

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