Times have changed, and not always for the better. While law enforcement always has carried an element of danger, it seems particularly threatening today. On Tuesday, Lake County, Illinois, Sheriffs Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz was gunned down as he attempted to question three men who were acting suspiciously. For more than 30 years, Lt. Gliniewicz served the people of Fox Worth, Illinois, and the surrounding area, not only as a peace officer, but also as a community volunteer, a Scout leader and cheerleader. The father of four was due to retire at the end of this month.
Thomas Ashbacher, a member of the Explorer Troop that Lt. Gliniewicz supervised, said of the officer known as GI Joe because of his military background, He could be tough, but he could also be the most friendliest guy [to] you.
As tragic as the death of Lt. Gliniewicz is, law enforcement officers know the risks they take every time they put on the uniform. That doesnt ease the grief or the sense of loss, but it says something about the character and courage of the people who become law enforcement officers.
The death of Harris County Sheriffs Deputy Darren Goforth on Aug. 28 is unfathomable. The 10-year veteran of the Sheriffs Office was pumping gas when a man stepped up behind him and fired 15 bullets into Deputy Goforths back. It is doubtful the deputy even heard his murderer coming up behind him. Deputy Goforth leaves behind his wife and two children, ages 12 and 5.
Two weeks before Deputy Goforth was killed, Louisiana State Trooper Steven J. Vincent was shot in the head by a motorist he stopped to help. Two days before Deputy Goforths murder, Officer Henry Nelson was killed answering a domestic-disturbance call in Sunset, Louisiana.
The deaths of Deputy Goforth and Lt. Gliniewicz ended a month in which eight law enforcement officers were murdered. A Washington, DC, memorial to fallen law enforcement officer has more than 20,500 names of officers killed in the line of duty since 1791.
Thankfully, the number of law enforcement officers gunned down is declining, down 13 percent so far this year over 2014. The worst period of officer deaths was the first half of 1973, when 84 officers were gunned down. That is little comfort Deputy Goforths and Lt. Gliniewicz families, colleagues and communities. Any law enforcement death is one too many.
After Lt. Gliniewicz was killed, US Rep. Robert Dold, who represents Fox Lake in Congress, said, Today is a heartbreaking reminder of the sacrifices made every day by those who have dedicated their lives to protect us.
Sadly, in the aftermath of Deputy Goforths assassination, politicians and community activists engaged in a war of words over whether the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement is the reason for his murder. We simply dont know and may never know why he was murdered.
There is validity in the Black Lives Matter movement. There can be no question that too many black Americans have died at the hands of police. Despite what some people want to believe, not all those shootings were unjustified -- but when they are, the officers involved should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
While the overwhelming number of law enforcement officers do their job well and honorably, there are a few -- and there are in every profession, including journalism -- who violate their oath to serve and protect. No one wants them rooted out more than their fellow officers.
No matter how people feel, though, there can be no justification for the murder of any law enforcement officer. An eye for an eye must be no excuse, no explanation. If it is, we cease to be a civilized nation.
God bless our law enforcement officers and thank you. We are so glad you work hard every day to keep the rest of us safe.
As Sgt. Phil Esterhaus told his fellow officers at the start of each shift on Hill Street Blues, Lets be careful out there.