Friday’s Heroes: Remembering The Fallen

The Graveyard Shift extends our condolences to the families of each of these brave officers.

Lieutenant Cliff Rouse, 39

Dougherty County Georgia Police Department

December 23, 2010 – Lieutenant Cliff Rouse was shot and killed after responding to an armed robbery at a convenience store. He is survived by his wife and two children.

Officer Ann O’Donnell, 24

University of Houston (Texas) Police Department

December 24, 2010 – Officer Ann O’Donnell was killed in an automobile crash while responding to a robbery-in-progress call. She is survived by her parents and sister.

Deputy Sheriff Michael Ray Schaefer, 55

Uvalde County Texas Sheriff’s Department

December 25, 2010 – Deputy Michael Schaefer suffered a fatal heart attack while struggling with a criminal suspect.

Officer John Maguire, 60

Woburn Massachusetts Police Department

December 26, 2010 – Officer John Maguire was shot and killed after responding to a robbery in progress. He is survived by his wife and two children.

Trooper First Class Chadwick T. LeCroy, 38

Georgia State Patrol

December 27, 2010 – Trooper First Class Chadwick T. LeCroy was shot and killed after a brief vehicle pursuit. Trooper LeCroy is survived by his wife and two sons.

Officer Jillian Michelle Smith, 24

Arlington Texas Police Department

December 28, 2010 – Officer Jillian Smith was shot and killed after responding to a domestic disturbance.

*As of this posting there have been 162 line of duty deaths in 2010.

Thanks to ODMP

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Officer Jillian Smith: A True Hero

I remember the feeling of answering your first calls with your field training officer stuck to you like glue, making sure you didn’t do or say anything dumb. It was also the FTO’s responsibility to keep you safe. Sure, you’d been through months of training at the academy, but nothing could prepare you for the real street action.

Years later, I, too, became a field training officer, watching over the rookies as they learned the ropes and tricks of the trade. It’s a period in an officer’s career that’s not unlike a baby taking her first steps. They stumble around and mom or dad is always there to catch them when they fall. But there are some in this world who never trip. They never stumble. Those are the ones who hit the carpet running. And that’s the story of Arlington Texas Police Officer Jillian Smith.

Jillian was a typical girl in high school. A good student and a cheerleader. But there was one thing that set her apart from the other giggling  sixth-graders. She wanted to be a police officer, an interest sparked by the local D.A.R.E. program.

Smith, with her goals in mind, received a bachelors degree in criminology from the University of Texas where she graduated with honors in August of 2009. Six months later she was hired by the Arlington Police Department. She checked the first goal off her list and entered the police academy—Class 41. Again, her drive was evident. She earned top grades in many of the classes and she graduated on August 20, 2010.

With her academy training behind her, Smith breezed through the field training program, completing it on December 13, 2010. She now had another goal in mind. She wanted to get some street experience behind her and then, hopefully, sign on with the FBI. That was two weeks ago.

Tuesday night, fifteen short days after completing all her training, Jillian Michelle Smith was shot to death while protecting an 11-year-old child during a domestic dispute. Officer Smith had responded to a low-priority call where a woman wanted to file a report of abuse by her husband who had already left the residence.

Officer Smith was in the process of recording the necessary information when the husband returned and began firing a weapon. Smith placed herself between the gunfire and the child and was killed. The suspect also shot and killed his wife, but the child Officer Smith had protected was able to escape without harm. The suspect then shot and killed himself.

Officer Jillian Smith was a true hero, and if she were able to do so she could check one more item off her list. You see, Officer Smith firmly believed she was on this earth to protect and serve the community where she lived. And she was right. Because of her bravery a child lived to see another day.

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Attacks Leave Five Dozen Americans Dead

If the headline read, Attacks Leave Five Dozen Americans Dead, would you be alarmed? Would you sit up and take notice? Would you want justice served? Sure you would. And rightly so. And I’ve heard the anger when Americans speak of our soldiers dying when they’re attacked while defending us. Again, we have a right to be angry at the barbarians who killed those brave young men and women. These are front page stories. Big headlines. And they make us mad. They make us sad. And some have even wanted to seek vengeance by blowing up entire countries. Yes, we want to stand by our own…right?

Then why is it when a police officer is shot and killed the story rarely makes the front page? When, or if, an officer’s death does make the headlines the article is normally buried beneath a story like the latest Sarah Palin adventure—her kid’s gutter mouths, a moose killing, or making smores.

Police officer on-duty deaths are on the rise at an alarming rate. There was a 37 percent increase in those deaths this year, and it seems like cop-killing has almost become a sport for some bad guys.

In 2010 alone, 160 police officers have lost their lives while enforcing our laws and defending our lives and property. Those 160 officers left home that morning fully expecting to return home to a nice dinner with their families, play a little catch with their kids, and maybe watch Castle on TV before turning in for the night. Instead, some thug decided that killing a cop to escape arrest was better than serving 6 months in jail for shoplifting.

Fifty-nine police officers were gunned down this year. Yes, someone pulled the trigger on a weapon while taking aim at a police officer. And those officers fell to the ground, bleeding, and died. Blood drained from their bodies, pouring out onto asphalt, concrete, carpeting, and stairways. The scenario is becoming a familiar one. It’s almost as if cop-killing is becoming another way of life—collateral damage. Or a badge of honor among street thugs. It’s sickening.

Yesterday, I attended a large family gathering. We enjoyed a nice meal together and catching up on the latest news led to a house full of loud chatter. One of the family members seated near me is a deputy sheriff and, of course, we talked shop. He’s a young man who loves his job. He loves the uniform and the badge and what they stand for. Listening to him reminded me of me thirty years ago when I was saying the same things to another retired police officer, a man I admired and who was largely responsible for igniting the “want to be a cop” fire in me.

During my conversation yesterday with Deputy Family Member, I noticed how quiet and soft-spoken he was. He’s a large muscular man, like many deputies, and I sensed that his size is in direct proportion to his compassion for the people he serves. I also noticed that he took the time to think before speaking. His words were measured and his statements were especially meaningful when we discussed officer safety. My thoughts quickly drifted to my Friday blogs honoring the officers who’ve been killed in the line of duty during those individual weeks.

I know that police officers have been trained to be as safe as possible. But I wonder if we haven’t somehow painted a bulls eye on their chests by forcing departments to cut back on manpower (backup), supplies, and training. Times are tight, yes, but is reducing officer safety the place to start pinching pennies? To me, five dozen dead police officers is unacceptable. And those are just the ones who were shot and killed this year. One-hundred-one more were run over by cars, beaten to death, killed in car crashes while chasing fleeing felons, and a few suffered fatal heart attacks while struggling with some punk who was attempting to escape arrest.

So, if the headline read,  Nearly Fourteen Dozen Americans Dead, would you take notice? You should, because that’s how many officers have died in the line of duty so far this year.

To all the officers out there…Please be careful. Wear your vests. And don’t take any chances. There’s no shame in a tactical retreat. Your family enjoys spending time with you. Even if it’s only once a year at the holiday gathering.

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A Cop’s Christmas

Candies, cakes, and eggnog.

Turkey, ham, and stuffing.

Pumpkin pie

My favorite.

Family, friends, and sleeping dog on hearth.

Fireplace crackles

Cedar logs sizzle.

Cookies and milk.

Laughter, giggles, and squeals.

Stockings and gifts.

Love and dreams.

Home.

Wish I was there.

Pepperspray, handcuffs, and puking drunks.

Radios, shotguns, and Tasers.

Spouses abused. Battered.

Black eyes and broken bones.

Not their fault.

Dealers, robbers, and sad, pitiful kids.

No toys. Plenty of drugs.

Crack pipes burning.

No place to sleep.

No food, no heat.

Gunshots. Stab wounds.

Car crashes and suicides.

Crying, bleeding, and dying.

Ambulances, hospitals, and morgues.

Home.

Glad I have one.

Aren’t you?

*Please remember the many police officers, fire crews, rescue workers, hospital staff, and all others who work to keep us safe during the holidays.

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

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