May 03, 2006


Guest opinion by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo

On a chilly November day in Shelley in 1914, newly-hired Village Marshal Lafayette Hampton left his wife and two daughters to work his 17th day of duty. Little did his family know that their husband and father would not return home. Called to stop a robbery at a local shop, the 28-year-old marshal pursued the thief to the outskirts of town and was gunned down. Now, almost a century later, Hampton will be rightfully accorded a place of honor along with his fellow fallen officers at the National Police Officerâ??s Memorial on May 15. Law enforcement is a dangerous, demanding and often lonely profession. When Idaho became a territory in 1863, our county governments began to organize, and most elected their first sheriffs. The job, just like it is today, was never a safe one and in spite of popular belief it wasnâ??t all that glamorous either. Though for a short time in 1882, during the gold rush in North Idaho, Kootenai County did attract a deputy sheriff named Wyatt Earp. But he didnâ??t stay long. Fortunately, law enforcement has a changed a lot since our days as a territory. However, there is one characteristic of a law enforcement officerâ??s job that hasnâ??t changed. Whether itâ??s the Idaho State Police keeping watch over a lonely tract of highway, a Sheriffâ??s deputy responding to a domestic violence call, or a police detective working the ins and outs of a complicated case, they are on duty constantly, vigilantly keeping us safe--something we often take for granted. Whether itâ??s the middle of the night or Christmas Eve, we know thereâ??s a police officer or sheriffâ??s deputy on duty and ready to respond. In 1991, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial was opened in Washington D.C. The memorial, authorized by Congress, commemorates the sacrifices and deeds of the men and women who serve in law enforcement. Engraved in the grey marble of the memorial are the names of over 14,000 officers who have given their lives in the line of duty. Thatâ??s a staggering number, and sadly, one that grows each year. Nationally, three officers a week on average are killed in the performance of their duties. Since Idaho became a territory, over 60 law enforcement officers have given their lives for their fellow Idahoans.Itâ??s certainly true that the world has a changed a lot since the days of the frontier sheriffs. Idaho law enforcement officers in the 21st century are highly-trained professionals and have tools and resources that their predecessors even a few years ago could not have imagined. But in some ways the job hasnâ??t changed that much from days gone by. As it was 150 years ago, law enforcement is about individuals standing up to protect their fellow citizens from danger. The week of May 14-20 is National Police Week--an opportunity for us to recognize the contribution our law enforcement officers make to our community and most of all to honor their sacrifices over the years. They give so much, often without a thank you. This is our opportunity to offer our appreciation for their commitment to upholding the law of the land.Itâ??s been many years since Marshal Hamptonâ??s ultimate sacrifice, but every day, families across the United States, and sometimes in Idaho, experience what the Hampton family did that dark November day in 1914, where father, mother, husband or child doesnâ??t come home. These men and women and their fellow officers are truly heroes among us. WORD COUNT: 580