Over the past few months I have been in great debate with people in my social media network over the way law enforcement is being portrayed across the nation. I am sickened by the generalization of an entire group of people. How the actions of a small percentage of law enforcement officers have been sensationalized, creating an emotional outbreak of hatred for the entire profession.
I have never excused the inappropriate or criminal actions of any law enforcement officer; however, neither will I ever stand silent while the entire group of men and women get raked over the coals and judged for the actions of a few.
These men and women are heroes; everyday heroes. They ask for nothing in return for their service, but the opportunity to serve the next day.
I can think of no greater example of this “every day heroism” than Lt. Richard Woods, who recently died on duty serving the people and community he loved. Richard died doing what every officer in the United States does every day: doing all he could to help anyone in need.
In the few years I served alongside Richard I never saw him do anything to serve his own self-interest. If something needed to be done, he did it. Even as a Lieutenant, a position typically viewed as a desk job, Richard was the first on the scene of a serious wreck this past week. While working to free a young woman trapped in her vehicle, he suffered a heart attack and died.
When we hear of most officers passing away on duty, it’s usually in a shooting, but Richard passed away doing what he did best: serving others. It is the epitome of how most law enforcement officers die, even when not on duty.
Richard was a member of my family; a brotherhood that most people cannot understand. As much as this column is to honor Richard and how he served his community, it is also about honoring those officers and deputies he left behind. Those that are still serving the exact same way Richard did, even as they grieve the loss of a brother and a friend.
In the upcoming weeks as people are honoring Richard’s life and sacrifice, don’t forget to honor those that are still there serving your community.
Richard was not one for ceremony, he didn’t seek recognition. The best way to honor his memory is to honor his brothers and sisters that are still doing exactly what he died doing. These men and women deserve your respect and your support. We need to honor our fallen heroes, but even more, we need to honor these heroes while they are still with us.
I will miss seeing Richard on my visits to the police department. I will always remember his quiet spirit, the gentle but firm way he handled the public, how he respected everyone as much as they allowed him to (even those he arrested), his willingness to do anything that needed to be done, and how his eyes would squint and how his whole face smiled when he found something humorous.
As you honor his memory, do so by honoring his brothers and sisters he left behind. That is how you truly honor a fallen hero.