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October 27, 2006

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Betsy Brantner Smith Survival Insights
with Betsy Brantner Smith

Eight Officers in Four Days

October 20 – 23, 2006 proved to be extremely deadly for law enforcement. Eight police officers from eight different states made the ultimate sacrifice in just four days. These officers, six men and two women, had an average of just over nine years police experience, and were from rural, suburban, and urban police departments around the country. Two were responding to emergency calls when they became involved in fatal traffic crashes. Four were struck and killed while investigating traffic crashes, conducting traffic control or making driver contact during a traffic stop. Two were fatally shot, one during a suspicious person investigation and the other as he sat in his patrol car with his K9 partner, who was unharmed. Although this recent spike in officer deaths may seem unusual, unfortunately it is not. In fact, 130 officers had been killed in the line of duty by this time last year, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page

What can be learned from these random and senseless LEO deaths? I talked to Dave Smith for some insight and some inspiration, because frankly, I couldn’t seem to get past the frustration, the anger and the saddness I was feeling about the unnecessary deaths of my brothers and sisters. Dave reminded me of Vivian Eney-Cross’s moving quote: "It is not how these officers died that made them heroes; it is how they lived."

So I did just that, I looked at how these eight officers lived and how they were being remembered.

Deputy Jeremy Reynolds was remembered by his uncle, a fellow Mason, as “exemplifying our principle tenets of Friendship, Morality and Brotherly Love,” and by others as a “great person, a wonderful friend” and a friendly guy who “never met a stranger.” Officer Dan Picagli, an extremely active member of his jurisdiction’s Police Athletic League, was well-known in his community. “For me, he's like a father figure, my father wasn't there, and he was, he led me to do bigger things," said one of the many youth Dan worked with, both on and off duty.

People recall that Officer Robert Langley, the first officer on his agency to die in the line of duty and a veteran of the War on Terrorism, was “always smiling, a wonderful person, a dedicated father and a great soldier.” Deputy Margena Nunez was remembered as a “special person who always had a kind word to say” and knew how to motivate others. Country music fan and father of two sons Officer Landon Dorris impressed others with his tenacity and his work ethic, and Officer Patrick Kramer, was “a great comrade, a friend, and most importantly a wonderful father.”

Family and friends recall that twenty-one year veteran Officer Mary Smith was a compassionate, dedicated officer and a devoted mother and friend who retired from one agency and chose to continue her service at another. Officer Thomas Wood, was remembered by his wife as “treating her like a queen,” a man who loved his job, his dog, computers, hot fudge, and the Chicago Bears, but “lived for his children.”

In the “Street Survival” seminar we encourage officers to honor our fallen by learning from their sacrifice, but we also stress the importance of living a life to be proud of, a life of family, friends and service to the community; a life filled with optimism, a belief system, and a winning mindset, both on and off duty. As I read about each of them, it became clear to me that all eight of them had left just such a legacy; a legacy we can all learn from.

As the law enforcement community begins to heal from one of it’s most deadly weeks, we all need to reflect on the legacy each one of us will leave.

You will find more information on fallen officers in the Officer Down section of PoliceOne.com

Stay safe.

About the author

Sergeant Betsy Smith has more than 30 years of law enforcement experience, retiring as a patrol supervisor in a large Chicago suburb. A graduate of the Northwestern University Center for Public Safety's School of Staff and Command and a Street Survival seminar instructor for more than 9 years, Betsy is now a speaker, author and a primary PoliceOne Academy consultant. Visit Betsy's website at www.femaleforces.com.

Contact Betsy Smith and Follow Betsy on Twitter





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