The week of May 15 is designated as Peace Officers Memorial Week to honor the sacrifices made by our country’s law enforcement officers. The observance was enacted by Congress in October, 1961 and signed into law by President John F. Kennedy.
“More than 20,000 law enforcement officers have been killed in the line of duty, and their sacrifices are forgotten entirely too often,” Patrick County Sheriff Dan Smith said in a Monday news release. He added that he wants people to remember that no civilized society could exist without law enforcement, and that a very thin line exists between good and evil when it comes to maintaining a stable civilization.
“We are that line in our communities,“ Smith said, adding that the men and women of the sheriff’s office take great pride in being able to serve and protect the citizens of Patrick County, and that each embraces the opportunity to put their lives on the line every day.
Per capita, more rural law enforcement officers are killed in the line of duty than any other group of officers, Smith said.
“I worry every night about the safety of my people. They respond alone to many calls that most urban departments would send two or three officers to, that alone is why so many rural officers are killed,” he said.
Smith said the added challenge of trying to police a county with nearly 500 mountainous square miles makes response more difficult. Too often, he said the office gets a call about a heated disturbance call involving shots being fired on one end of the county and the deputies on duty are at another call, 40 miles away.
“It is not uncommon for us to be called out from home to respond to serious calls just because the deputies working are tied up so far away,” Smith said.
He noted that the 911 center answers more than 30,000 calls annually, and more than 85 percent of those are for law enforcement services. Calls for service have been steady during the recent pandemic, and Smith said that, while he has not gleaned the exact numbers, he thinks that deputies are answering more calls than before the pandemic.
“We are the part of government that will never stop working for you. We will always be there when you need us, we will always answer the call,” he added.