No Spring Break for the Police

No Spring Break for the Police

By Chief Joel F. Shults, Ed.D

We aren’t yet a third of the way into 2024. As Springtime provides its annual renewal of hope, the season of mayhem has not abated.

As of March 12, 2024, 7 law enforcement officers had been murdered by gunfire, 1 by stabbing, 1 has drowned, 4 were killed being struck by a vehicle, 1 by beating, 7 in car crashes,  and 1 along with 2 National Guardsmen in a helicopter crash. Thousands more had been injured and assaulted in ways that are not uniformly measured. Five police K9s had also died.

Heroism is in no short supply. Conroe, TX officers saved a woman being held with a knife to her throat in an attempted sexual assault. Officers’ attempts at de-escalation were to no avail. The incident ended with the hostage taker dead and the victim physically uninjured. A Deputy in Alabama saved a fellow officer’s life whom he had never met by donating a kidney. “Somebody needed something to live, and I was very lucky to be able to help with that,” said Jefferson County Sheriff’s Lt. Mike House, who donated a kidney to Vestavia Hills Police Cpl. Jerry Hughes.

Two NYPD officers faced a rain-slickened Brooklyn Bridge, climbing 25 feet to save a suicidal woman. After talking with the woman, they were able to lead her to safety. In Akron, OH officers rescued a 2-year-old boy from Larry Spence, 54, who stole a pickup truck with a sleeping child buckled in the back seat. The officers offered comfort to the child, including offering a story from a child’s book about dinosaurs. LAPD officers were attempting to stop a vehicle driving with no headlights when the driver crashed into a utility pole, causing the vehicle to catch fire. Officers broke into the vehicle to pull two teen occupants out of the flames but were unable to save a third.

Broward County, FL, sheriff’s deputies fatally shot a transit worker in Pompano Beach after he allegedly killed a colleague and opened fire at law enforcement officers. Marana, AZ police attempted to stop a suspected drunk driver who led officers on a foot chase. The man was reportedly armed with a handgun and, when located, was killed in an exchange of gunfire.

Arrests have been made in the January attack on two police officers at a migrant shelter in New York.  The officers were kicked and beaten by multiple suspects after one of the officers was engaged in taking custody of a suspect. Manhattan District Attorney Bragg, typical of his reputation for being a friend of offenders, initially allowed four suspects released with no bail but then indicted them after protests.

Officers in Phoenix protecting Vice President Harris’ motorcade were assaulted with red dye thrown by a protestor. A Hamilton Township, NJ police officer underwent surgery after he was shot multiple times by a gunman who was subsequently shot and killed by police during a domestic violence call. Police in Sante Fe, NM were attempting to apprehend a fugitive when gunfire erupted. One officer and two suspects were hospitalized.

While the stories of chaos and tragedy are too many to cite, police work never ceases to offer occasional amusement. Police in Colorado were searching for a burglary suspect when they discovered him answering nature’s call with his pants down on a toilet in the building. The Superintendent of the New Orleans Police Department is lobbying for new facilities, reporting that rats are eating marijuana held in evidence. A Weld County, CO deputy was successful in rounding up a runaway emu. Despite attempts to escape the deputy, the bird was wrangled back to its owner.

The seasons may change, but the challenges of policing never do.