Nov 302003
 
Authors: Monica Owens

In this post-Sept. 11, 2001, time, it seems that Americans can’t

get enough of police dramas or reality shows on television. Flip

from channel to channel on any given night, and you see them: “NYPD

Blue,” “C.S.I.: Crime Scene Investigation,” “Third Watch,” “Cops,”

several versions of “Law and Order.” The list seems endless.

From the number and the popularity of these shows, it’s obvious

that Americans love our cops. They are what separate our peaceful

existence from the criminals who threaten our lives. Every day,

they put their lives on the line for us and our families, even

though we are distant strangers. They are real American heroes.

But when they step out of the television screen and into our

everyday lives, do we really love them that much? Or do we –

especially college students – think that the police are “out to get

us?”

That separation between the on-screen hero in blue and the

reality of the police officers working in our communities doesn’t

affect just college students. It bothers cops, too. It’s rare for

the average American to have contact with the real life man or

woman in blue. Real contact means more than a short, unpleasant

conversation at a traffic stop.

These are real people, with real lives, who have a critically

important job to do. It’s far more complicated than the “never a

dull moment” portrayal on television and in the movies. When people

in Fort Collins call about a noise violation or a traffic accident

or a petty theft, the police are just a phone call away. And we

count on them.

That’s why it’s wrong for any of us to disrespect law

enforcement in general, and particularly in and around the CSU

campus. We can’t like the police just when they’re on television or

when we need their help. They’re doing their job 24/7, and we

should remember that. We should remember that they are men and

women earning a living doing a job that is incredibly important to

all of us. They are more than just someone in a uniform with a

badge.

In the interest of full disclosure, I do volunteer for the Fort

Collins Police Department. I have had the chance to get to know

many of our local police officers. I see how they treat victims

with respect. I see how dedicated they are in doing their jobs. I

see their frustrations and, at the same time, how much they love

the opportunity to serve the people of their community. These are

real people. Flesh and blood.

And these flesh and blood people are often cursed at, assaulted,

spat upon and shot. Some die in the line of duty, leaving grieving

spouses and children behind. In Colorado alone, the names of 197

peace officers are engraved on the Colorado Law Enforcement

memorial. Each May, a ceremony is held to honor the officers listed

on the memorial and, sadly, to add any new names that must be added

from the previous calendar year. The memorial is located in a grove

of trees near the State Patrol Academy.

Each of these names has a story behind it. For example, Officer

Bruce L. VanderJagt, of the Denver Police Department, who was shot

and killed in November 1997. In pursuit of a burglary suspect, the

suspect — in a hail of bullets — gunned down Officer

VanderJagt.

Next time you see a police officer, in whatever circumstances,

think about Officer VanderJagt, his widow and his little girl, as

well as the other 196 law enforcement officers who died in the line

of duty. Remember that every officer has a family at home, waiting

to see their mom or dad, husband or wife, son or daughter. These

brave officers are out on the streets for you, and they are willing

to put their lives on the line to protect you. Show them the

respect they deserve.

Monica is a junior studying psychology. She is a contributor for

The Collegian.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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