Those who keep us safe deserve thanks

Published 11:51 am Monday, January 20, 2020

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This past Sunday, a local church (Immanuel Baptist) had a ceremony where my place of employment, the Harlan City Police Department, was honored by the church and a dinner was held to show appreciation. This was part of a series of such events where the church seeks to honor local first responders.

I want to first thank the church and Pastor Arnold Martin for their kindness, generosity and for the show of appreciation. It is rare that folks who work in emergency services are shown appreciation these days. At least that is the case away from here. I’m thankful that here in our neck of the woods most people have a healthy respect for law and order and for those who risk their lives and sacrifice their time to fight fires and be the first to respond medically to an incident. Whether they are paid or are volunteers, it takes a great deal of dedication and commitment to do what they do.

Second, since there are those out there reading who are thinking it, I’m not going to pretend everything is sunshine and roses in the first responder community. We have our bad apples, as every profession or community does. We are as well aware of that as anyone. I can assure you that no one is more greatly troubled by these bad apples than the rest of the community itself.

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Now that we have that out of the way, let me proceed.

Like I said, people who work (or volunteer) for police, fire, EMS, the military, rescue squads, etc…We all appreciate being appreciated, more than you can possibly know. But no one (with maybe a few exceptions) who chooses to go into any of those professions or sacrifice their time does it for the praise. Praise is great. Appreciation is great. Everyone wants to know that others care for them and for the contributions they make to society. It’s natural to do so, part of our human nature.

But that’s not why most of the people who do these jobs do it. Over the past month, three Harlan police officers took part in two incidents where a person was going to take their life —three in one incident and one of those same officers in another incident. Both times the person sitting on the bridge, staring into the abyss that lie ahead if they were successful, were saved (at least momentarily)by the actions of these officers.

Just last Saturday, as I was leaving, I heard and saw multiple cruisers headed north on U.S 119. The Kentucky State Police was leading the pursuit joined in by multiple agencies. The suspect they were chasing was apprehended in Bell County. I know that you may be thinking they were just doing their job, what they are supposed to do. Or maybe, why do they pursue people at high speeds anyway. I can see, to a degree in both cases, to a point, that is. But, though it is their job, they put their lives at risk in those high speed chases. Also, though I can understand safety issues, and perhaps there are times pursuits should be called back, there should never be a policy of not pursuing at all. That just emboldens criminals to be commit more crime because they know they’ll most likely get away.

If you read the papers locally or watch the news you sometimes can have your fill of all the incidents and the outcomes, good or bad or indifferent. What you see is only the tip of the iceberg — all the calls, for every domestic, every traffic stop, every drug arrest, every fire responded to, every call for aid, and so on. Every incident that doesn’t make the paper all accumulated is a measure of how order is kept in a world that creeps towards chaos and anarchy at every moment.

We may not see that as plainly locally as we do on a national level where we see marches, mass shootings, the antagonism of groups like ANTIFA. What happens on the local level is more of an accumulation of things. Incidents, seemingly less serious in nature at times, that without response breed disorder and discontent among the populace. And with that create a society with less order.

As I close, in what is a bit more brief than my usual meanderings, I want to comment on the Harlan County Rescue Squad. When I started my shift on Sunday morning, I monitored their radio traffic where the squad was in the mountains somewhere looking for a missing or lost person. I left a little early in my shift to attend the service I spoke of earlier, and when I returned hours later to drop off some food for those at work the people on the squad were still out there.

Now, of course, this is what they signed up to do, and on some level it is something that drives them. But these guys were out there on a Sunday morning, and a very cold one at that, going all over the woods looking for someone they may have known, but most likely didn’t, without thought of fanfare, praise or even their own comfort. I don’t know what the outcome was from the search. Not yet anyway. But I am thankful for those who sacrifice their time to do so.

I am thankful for those who get up every day, locally to across the world, who put on a badge, strap on their fire gear, grab the medical bag, pick up a rifle and man a post, sit at a console or take care of the many tasks that go into keeping people safe and keeping order in a chaotic world.