February letters E-mail

Cops trained to "run away?"

There was an article on the Secret Service that ran on January 4, 2009 in Parade magazine. In it an ex-Secret Service agent and current colonel at the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office in Florida, James Previtera, makes a very bad statement. He states, "Cops are trained to retreat when gunfire starts, but the Secret Service has to stand tall and go into the gunfire."

I think APB readers would want to know what Previtera thinks of us lowly cops who "train to retreat" and hopefully Colonel Previtera will get an earful from the thousands of law enforcement officers around the country who have run towards gunfire to save a life or stop a threat. For those interested in reading the entire article, it can be viewed at www.parade.com. The offending remark occurs right at the beginning of the article: "Secret Service agents have a job that they must literally be willing to die for. 'Cops are trained to retreat when gunfire starts, but the Secret Service has to stand tall and go into the gunfire,' says James Previtera, a Secret Service agent from 1998 to 2005 who now runs Florida's Hillsborough County Jail.

To serve and protect all

Besides protecting, a big part of what we do is serve.

Our line of work offers us a chance to come in contact with people who really need help and how we treat them is a reflection not only on our agency but ourselves as well. Recently I met an older man named Donald. Donald had severe mental health challenges that required comprehensive professional attention.

For police officers, it is not uncommon to have calls involving persons suffering some type of psychiatric disorder or mental health problem and on this particular day, Donald was being stubborn and confrontational at the institution he was staying at. Refusing to take a shot to calm him, Donald was in a standoff with staff, who called for our assistance. Despite efforts to negotiate with him, Donald was having nothing to do with it. Prior to speaking with him, I said a prayer for a certain saint's intervention to help us accomplish our objective to assist him.

When I had the chance to speak with Donald, I gently told him that I wanted him to be treated with the respect he deserved. Despite his severe handicap, Donald recognized I was offering him a chance to not only avoid a pending physical escalation, which I felt was beneath him, but also to maintain his personal dignity. In short order, he complied with staff's request and the other officers and I were on our way. In our special line of work, we have a unique advantage in having regular opportunities to make a difference in the lives of all God's children, particularly those most in need. By presenting small gifts of respect and kindness toward them, we also have a chance to make prayerful offerings to the Almighty in our tours of duty. And whether we appreciate it or not, there is more than meets the eye when we run into those that society has deemed our lowest.

Sadly, Donald died a while later; but while here, he offered so many people the chance to praise God through kindness to him. Our world is filled with Donalds, and as police officers, we are remiss if we don't recognize the opportunities that they offer us. - Lt. Tom Wetzel

In the line of duty

On January 31, 1791, Constable Darius Quimby of the Albany County, NY Constable's Office was killed by hostile gunfire. He was shot and killed while attempting to arrest a man on a trespassing warrant. The suspect was found guilty of murdering Constable Quimby in the July session of the New York State Supreme Court and was hanged for his crime on August 26, 1791. Constable Quimby is the first known law enforcement officer to be killed in the line of duty in the United States. Since that day 19,494 US law enforcement officers have lost their lives in the line of duty. In 2008, the first loss to law enforcement came on New Year's Day when Maryland Transportation Authority Police Corporal Courtney Brooks was struck by a hit-and-run driver on I-95 in Baltimore City at approximately 11:30 PM Dec. 31, 2007. In the year 2008, a total of 132 US law enforcement officers lost their lives in the line of duty in the United States, its territories, protectorates, on its railways and tribal lands. 14 of the officers were female, and 118 were male. New York State lost five officers in 2008. Detective Christopher A. Ridley was off duty when he observed a fight between two homeless men in White Plains, New York. He attempted to break up the fight, but was violently attacked by the aggressor.

During the struggle, Detective Ridley's handgun fell to the ground and discharged, attracting the attention of two Westchester County police officers who were in an adjacent county building. The officers approached the scene as Detective Ridley picked up his weapon from the ground. Not realizing that Ridley was a police officer, the two officers ordered him to drop his weapon. When he did not comply, they fired, fatally wounding him. Sgt. Edward Thompson of the NYPD died from lung cancer that he contracted as a result of recovery work performed at Ground Zero, the site of the World Trade Center attack on September 11, 2001. During his work at Ground Zero, Sergeant Thompson inhaled various toxins which were present in the air, which led to the onset of the cancer. Officer Kenneth Duncan, a New York City Corrections officer, was shot and killed while taking police action in an off duty incident. Officer Duncan was in his driveway with a friend, working on his motorcycle when two males approached. One produced a firearm in an attempt to steal the motorcycle. In an exchange of gunfire Duncan was shot once in the face. He engaged his assailant but did not hit the suspect.

Officer Aldo Rossi, Port Dickinson Police Department, was struck by a drunk driver while waiting for a DOT truck to remove a tree that had fallen across the roadway. He was speaking to the driver of a car that had stopped near the fallen tree when another car struck that car, and then him. He was 42 years old. Trooper Shawn W. Snow, New York State Police, was electrocuted while assisting a driver changing a flat tire on an antique fire truck near the Ogdensburg-Prescott International Bridge.

The fire truck's ladder came in contact with overhead power lines. Trooper Snow and the truck driver were both killed instantly. Of the three New York State losses attributable to criminal action, two of the cases have been cleared. The murder of Kenneth Duncan remains an open case. God be with each of them, their families and friends, and their departments, now and always. We remember. Lord, hear us. "When we lay down our nightsticks, enroll us in Your Heavenly force, where we will be as proud to guard the Throne of God as we were to guard the cities of men." St. Michael protect us. We will see you in Elysium.- Respectfully submitted by Officer Mike Ryan, Brockport, NYPD. Background information for this letter came from Officerdown.com.

Domo arigato

I would like to thank American Police Beat and the other sponsoring organizations for hosting an incredible reception for the California Police Chiefs Association at IACP in San Diego this month. It was a wonderful event with over 400 chiefs attending and we were proud to be able to assist in raising money for the National Law Enforcement Museum. We appreciate your support and thanks again. - Chief Jerry P Dyer Fresno, California P.D. President, California Police Chiefs Association

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