There’s really no job in our society quite like it – and few so impactful and important to our everyday lives.
For cops on the street, each day presents a new experience – the reward of helping a person in peril or the risk of being taken from their families prematurely.
Any day could be life-threatening for a police officer. We’ve seen it right here in Albuquerque in recent days.
This month, in just a little over a week’s span, three law enforcement officers were fired upon in three separate incidents. Fortunately, none was seriously wounded, although in some of the cases others involved were killed.
On July 5, police say, a 26-year-old Santa Fe man stole a “bait car” on Central SE. The city-owned vehicle was remotely disabled in the Northeast Heights, and a police vehicle moved in. The suspect then fired multiple shots at the police vehicle, one of which went through the police car’s windshield and narrowly missed the officers inside. Police returned fire, striking the suspect in the chin. The suspect is a convicted felon with several warrants for his arrest.
Later that week, early in the morning on July 10, officers responded to a gunshot detection device near Fourth and Central. There, two men and a police vehicle were struck by gunfire. Nineteen-year-old Trevonte Robbins died at the scene. Another man was hospitalized in critical condition. The police officer in the vehicle suffered minor injuries when a bullet struck his windshield and sprayed him with glass.
Then the following Wednesday, July 14, a 20-month investigation of a purported prominent Southeast Albuquerque gang leader resulted in a shootout outside a strip mall in Northeast Albuquerque. The 31-year-old opened fire on authorities as they moved in, striking an FBI agent in his bullet-proof vest and wounding him. The suspect, who had warrants involving drugs, guns and prostitution, was shot and killed.
Yes, we are living in a time of unprecedented calls for police reform. The old ways of policing at the end of a baton just aren’t acceptable anymore, nor should they be. But we’re making progress on reforms like mandatory body-worn cameras, routine investigations of police uses of force, more diverse police forces, and a change in culture with an emphasis on de-escalation rather than confrontation.
Meanwhile, the criminals continue to play by their own rules, with seemingly even less regard for human life than in the past. A midyear report by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund says 2021 could be the deadliest year for law enforcement on record, with 155 line-of-duty officer deaths at this year’s midpoint. Those include New Mexico State Police Officer Darian Jarrott, who was ruthlessly murdered by a drug dealer during a traffic stop in February on Interstate 10 east of Deming.
Recall the old Westerns in which the law-abiding town folk had difficulty finding someone willing to pin on the badge and enforce the laws. We can never go back to that. We need our cops more than they need us.
As recent events have shown, our officers put their lives on the line for us every day. Fortunately, there still are men and women willing to sign up for the job.
It’s tough being a cop, and dangerous, too. Especially in the Albuquerque metro area. People who risk never going home to their families while doing their job protecting and serving us have earned our respect and appreciation. After all, who else would we call in times of crisis?
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.