Friday, February 17, 2012

Respect the Service


It is natural for people not to pay attention to things that don't affect them. It is also true that if you pay attention to all the forms of news media available on a constant basis, you will be concerned about the topics and views that are being touted.

For several years after the Global War on Terror began, the headlines were filled with deaths of U. S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.  After the Surge was successful the news of Iraq dwindled.   The news from Afghanistan increased up to 2011 and has now declined greatly following the trend of declining combat.  Since the pull out in Iraq, news broadcasts of late have been devoid of any casualty reports.
There are still deaths of U. S. personnel in Afghanistan but the numbers aren't very high so you don't hear about them.  You may hear of it if someone from your town or neighborhood was killed.  You would surely be aware of it if it was a friend or relative.

Today, most Americans go on about their lives almost oblivious to the fact that military personnel are dying overseas.  And by the same token, most Americans go on about their lives oblivious to the fact that on average, several serving men and women die in this country every week.  Those are the men and women who serve as police officers.

All deaths are tragic and one type of death is not better than another.  Friends and family are left behind to deal with the anguish of the loss as they struggle to survive the future without that certain someone.

The highest category of death of a police officer is usually a traffic death, relating to an accident they have been involved in with their patrol vehicle or if they were struck by a car in or near a roadway.  The other major categories of fatalities are homicide, manslaughter, medical emergency or other types of accidental death.  The main point is, dead is dead.

In the military, combat deaths predominate in the years in which the conflicts are occurring.  Since military operations are inherently dangerous, accidental deaths occur in peace or war as do deaths from medical ailments.


Reader please take note.  The purpose of this exercise is focused on the death rates of soldiers and police officers. The purpose is not to compare the duties, responsibilities or function of each profession.  The purpose of my discussion of my understanding about the military is to convey to the reader the base line of understanding that I possess. 

Below is a table and two charts which I compiled comparing the deaths of police officers that occurred in the United States and the death of military personnel in the Afghan Theater of the Global War on Terror.  It represents a ten year period from 2001 to 2010.  The figures for police officers was taken from the Federal Bureau of Investigation's annual reports on police officer deaths in the United States.  The numbers for the military come from the official casualty lists published by the Department of Defense.  The base year of 2001 was selected since that was when the Global War on Terror began. 

The most obvious trend is that as the war in Afghanistan increased there was a correspondent increase in deaths in the military.  What is interesting to note is that the military deaths did not surpass police deaths here until 2008.

It is also important to note that in 2009 and 2010, when the war was at its height, the military casualties were many fold that of the police numbers.  This represents the difference between a active war zone and a civilized society.

It should be also noted that the police deaths for 2001 include the 72 officers who perished on September 11, 2001.  This skews the total for police fatalities because it was such a  large and unusual event.

The average mortality is interesting and it was rounded off in both instances per mathematical convention.  The military number is skewed because of the last two reporting years. What is interesting is that the ten year average for police in the United States was 133 and only once, in 2009, did the actual count fall below 100.


How much death on the battlefield is acceptable?  How much death on the home front is acceptable? 

These are rhetorical questions, but they are questions we as individuals and as a society may grapple with.  They only ones who don't share this dilemma, are the family and friends of the ones who are lost.

As I previously stated, one occupational mortality is no more nobler than the other.  Death is the common dominator.  My point is that the police officer death toll is constant over time.  On the average it happens several times of week, war or no war.  The news reports of the police officer deaths resemble a little trickle that no one notices or hears. 

The horrors and suffering of the battlefields are only truly known by those who are there.  Most of us are protected from the carnage and misery of the holocaust by being at home enjoying the freedom that the soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and coastguardsmen provide.

I am not a military veteran but I do appreciate those who have served.  They are a special class of people that this country is highly indebted to.  I am proud of the fact that my father and his brothers all served in World War II.  It was  the story of an immigrant from eastern Europe paying his dues of citizenship by sending his five sons to fight a war in behalf of his new country.  In addition, I have also had other family members and friends serve in the military.

I served as a police officer for a period of twenty-seven years.  My duties and responsibilities often placed me in dangerous and difficult situations.   Those  perilous and risky circumstances were all survived due to training, alertness, common sense, luck and the blessing of God.  Other officers that served have not been so lucky.


The tremendous public support for the police and the military after September 11, 2001, was gratifying to those in uniform at the time, and it was truly appreciated.  Some of this support and enthusiasm  has naturally,  and understandably waned.  Please be cognizant  of the fact that good service is being done in this country right now by thousands of professional police officers.   A few of those officers will never return from their tour of duty.  On a yearly basis, a few quickly adds up to one hundred.

This type of information rarely  makes the top story on the television news or the headline in the paper, and even if it does, it usually doesn't last long.

Police officers perform their duties in the communities in which they serve,  twenty four, seven.

As of this writing (February 17, 2012), we have already lost nineteen officers in the line of duty this year, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers  Memorial Fund.  The NLEOMF also stated that 173 police officers were killed in 2011, apparently a particularly  brutal year.

It's just something to think about.


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