Today, we mark Law Enforcement Appreciation Day—an opportunity to express our gratitude for the men and women who protect us. Below is a guest post from Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA), who served in law enforcement for 33 years, about the sacrifices officers make every day in the line of duty.
Last Friday, after a senseless act of violence, law enforcement officers at the Fort Lauderdale, Florida international airport acted without hesitation to secure the area and usher civilians to safety.
In 2016, we lost 135 members of law enforcement. That is a 10 percent increase over 2015. Even more alarming, there was a 56 percent increase in firearm–related officer fatalities last year and one-third of shooting deaths were ambush-style attacks— the highest total in more than two decades.
You may not know one of the 135 brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, friends, and colleagues we lost, but they are the reason our children feel safe on the playground, the reason your local hardware store owner can leave his shelves stocked knowing his merchandise will be there the next morning, and the reason the freedoms our country was founded on are more than ink on paper.
But this security comes at a cost.
Tacoma Police Officer Jake Gutierrez from my home state of Washington lost his life in the line of duty just last month while trying to protect a woman from a domestic abuser.
Gutierrez was supposed to exchange wedding vows with his fiancé only a few weeks later. Instead, she and his three daughters and granddaughter attended his funeral and tried to picture a life without their husband, father, and grandfather.
This feeling of loss is one that I am all too familiar with.
In 1982, my partner and best friend, Sergeant Sam Hicks, was shot to death when attempting to arrest a homicide suspect. Sam left behind a wife who no longer has a husband and five children who no longer have a father. That was over 30 years ago, but loss is a pain time cannot erase.
I tell these stories not to dampen your spirits, but to remind you that those who work across the law enforcement community—the police officers, sheriff’s deputies, corrections officers, FBI agents, border patrol agents, and all of our brave men and women—do not have a job like the rest of us.
They have a calling. A calling that can result in grave danger and sometimes the ultimate sacrifice. But with the heart of a servant and love for their community, they respond to the call to serve anyway. They leave their homes everyday knowing they might not return.
At a time when we are seeing examples of unrest toward law enforcement, we must stop and think about just how much their daily acts of bravery impact our own lives.
I ask that on National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, we do just that—show appreciation for our law enforcement. A request that should not be reserved for a holiday, but should be honored each and every day.
So please join me in saying thank you—whether that means displaying a blue light in your windowsill or shaking the hand of a local law enforcement officer.
A small gesture for those who are willing to give their life on our behalf.