Today is Sunday, August 20, 2017

Police Week spotlights sacrifice of 'men and women in blue'

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Although Lebanon Police have not had a "line of duty" death since Chief Robert E. Nolen in 1916 - officers face perilous situations daily.

Reflecting on National Police Week, in which several local law enforcement officers including Capt. Michael VanHook with LPD traveled to Washington, D.C. for remembrance activities, Lebanon Police Chief Mike Justice said assaults on officers are not uncommon.

Statistics released from the FBI showed 48,315 assaults on officers nationwide in 2014. In the same year, LPD had 9 assaults on officers. In 2015, the number bumped to 15. Assaults include actions such as hitting, spitting or causing harm to the officer.

Justice believes the increase is due to a national mindset that assaults are perhaps "allowed" and of course, the easy accessibility to drugs at a low cost.

"In today's society you definitely see groups who send the message that it is okay to not respect an officer," he said, but noted that in Lebanon - police officers do their best to protect the community in which they live. "We are not on an island. We shop here. We eat here. We live in the same community with the folks we write tickets to."

In spite of the dangers of the job - most officers work hard because they believe they are making a positive difference.

Cpl. Ray Harris was in the Military Police prior to becoming an officer in Lebanon. He has now been a police officer for 18 years. "I wanted to help people," he said.

Public Information Officer PJ Hardy said for him, law enforcement was a calling.

Hardy agreed that although there has not been a line of duty death in recent years - the threat is there daily. "Every day when you put on the uniform there is potential that you might not make it home that night," he said, explaining that the majority of officer deaths nationwide are traffic related - crashes, going to calls, etc.

Officers protect themselves - and the community - from other threats by continuing training and education. The average officer completes a minimum of 40 hours of training each year. Hardy said most officers in specialized areas do beyond that.

VanHook said he's enjoyed traveling to D.C. for the past 4 years because of the new friendships he's found - folks in law enforcement all over the country who have a "commonality."

"No matter where you are from, the job is the same. The guys in New York take the same calls as we do - it is just on a larger scale," he said.

Staff Writer Sabrina Garrett may be contacted at sgarrett@wilsonpost.com.

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