By Bill Casey
2019 has not started out great for police officers nationwide as 30 officers have already lost their lives in the line of duty. According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, 13 deaths came by way of gunfire while seven officers lost their lives in car and motorcycle incidents. Two thirds of the officer deaths already happened in 2019 are attributed to the two former causes.
Some police departments across the nation are dealing with multiple deaths within the past year. The Illinois State Police already lost three troopers in 2019 all to vehicular accidents. An entire nation mourned with the entire State of Illinois after Troopers Gerald Ellis and Brooke Jones-Story lost their lives in the same week to vehicular accidents. The deaths of Troopers Ellis and Jones-Story led Brendan Kelly, Director of the Illinois State Police to declare: “Enough is Enough.” Message boards along the Illinois Tollway system are plastered with the words of State Police Director’s message.
Milwaukee, which is a stone’s throw away from the Illinois border, has dealt with the tragic loss of three police officers in the last year. The last time Milwaukee had a police officer line of duty death was in 1994. Officer Matthew Rittner of the Milwaukee Police Department was killed on February 6th while serving a warrant on the city’s South Side. He was cut down in the line of duty in the prime of his life, and had nobly been on the force ever since he’d reached the age of majority. The funeral and memorial services continued for about a week, and I was struck by how solemn and sincere they were. The way Officer Rittner was shot was a dire warning for police officers across the nation who have to serve warrants on a day in, day out basis.
Rockford, Illinois, experienced a similar tragedy on March 8th when McHenry County Deputy Sheriff Jacob Keltner died while serving an arrest warrant at an Extended Stay America hotel. Keltner was a member of the Great Lakes Fugitive Apprehension Task Force which combines the best professionals in law enforcement to serve arrest warrants on violent criminals. Wisconsin and Illinois maybe neighboring states and rivals on the sporting fields, but they share the same grief as one law enforcement family in the wake of some very senseless tragedies.
These tragedies affecting police officers come at a time when police officers face more pressure to do their job correctly. Tensions between the police and more urbanized communities are egged on by a bloodthirsty media ready to exploit officer-involved shootings for ratings. This is extremely troubling for the United States. Since the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States , it only seems that the media has become more addicted to stoking racial tension and dividing the country. This would come at the expense if more Americans will consume their product through various mediums.
The growing number of deaths towards our law enforcement officers should be a true national emergency. Elected officials at the federal and state levels should be working with law enforcement agencies to improve safety on the job and increase penalties for those who perpetrate tragedies against our law enforcement officers. The families of law enforcement officers pray every day that their loved one comes back home.
Bill Casey is Board Secretary of the American Police Officers Alliance, a political organization that supports the interests of America’s law enforcement officers.