May 09, 2007

THE THIN BLUE LINE

By Senator Mike Crapo

May has been a tragic month for Idaho law enforcement. On May 3, Caldwell lost Stacey Heim, a promising young police officer and mother of two had been with the Caldwell police department for seven years, in a terrible accident. Then, in the early morning hours of May 20, Lee Newbill, 17-year law enforcement veteran and father of three, was gunned downâ??the first Moscow police department officer to be killed in the line of duty since Moscow became a city in 1899. These tragedies come at a time of year when our nation honors its law enforcement and remembers those who have given their lives protecting our communities and our families. We commemorated National Police Week from May 13 - May 19, remembering 145 officers who died in the line of duty across America in 2006. Compared to the rest of the world, Americans have it pretty good. We go about our daily lives relatively free to do and say whatever we want. We can worship in freedom and peace, work to make better lives for our families, and spend leisure time uninhibited by fears that people in other countries face every day. We see it in other places--simply going to the market can be a deadly proposition. The remarkable level of personal security and freedom we enjoy arguably has one downsideâ??it can make us complacent. Just as we recognize our military's role in defending our freedom abroad, we offer our heartfelt gratitude to those who keep us safe here at home, the men and women working in law enforcement who safeguard our streets and who respond when we've been the victim of accidents or crime, minor or life-threatening. For the past 45 years, we've honored those who selflessly constitute the "thin blue line" that protects law-abiding citizens from those who would do society harm. Sadly, law enforcement lives are sacrificed regularly in the course of their vigilant watch that keeps the United States a nation grounded in the rule of law.In 2006, 145 law enforcement officers died as a result of injuries incurred in the line of duty. The youngest was an 18-year-old military police officer who died in an accident while she was on patrol at Edwards Air Force Base in California; the oldest was a 76-year-old lieutenant from the Los Angeles Police Department who died after eight years in a coma, caused when struck at 50 mph by a drunk driver. U.S. law enforcement officers lost their lives last year in vehicles and airplanes, on bicycles, in physical combat, by lethal weapon and during routine traffic stops.Many Idaho law enforcement officers have died in the line of duty. Names of over 50 Idahoans are engraved on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C. With dates of sacrifice spanning the better part of a century, these men and women represent every part of Idaho. Twelve counties, and cities like Pocatello, Idaho Falls, Nampa, Caldwell, Lewiston, Shelley, Wallace, Alameda Village, Downey, Emmett, Parma, Orofino, Osburn, New Plymouth, Boise and now Moscow have lost law enforcement officers in the line of duty. State law enforcement agencies have a long history of bravery and sacrifice as well: officers from the Idaho State Police, Idaho Department of Corrections and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game made the ultimate sacrifice. The Idaho Peace Officer's Memorial at Idaho State Police headquarters in Meridian is closer than the memorial in Washington, D.C., and bears the names of 62 Idaho law enforcement officers who gave their lives in service to Idaho families and communities. Sadly, Officer Lee Newbill's name will join those of his fellow brave officers next year, both in Idaho and in Washington, D.C. Every day local, state and federal law enforcement officers risk life and limb for our personal safety and security. Remember to commend an officer and his or her family for their bravery and commitment. We have much to thank them for.