Feeling safe is a sensation we long for from the time we are born and we cuddle in our parents' arms. No one wants to live in a state of fear, and we all still long for protection from the evils and dangers of the world. This feeling of safety normally requires a sacrifice from our protectors because by ensuring our safety they are, in turn, risking theirs; an act that is as courageous as it is noble.
Wednesday in Colorado Springs, one of those underappreciated protectors sacrificed his safety for ours. Detective Jared Jensen, a three-and-a-half year veteran of the Colorado Springs Police Department, and a member of the Metro Vice, Narcotics and Intelligence Division, was killed in the line of duty. Jensen was approaching a known fugitive when the suspect fatally wounded Jensen with a single shot to the head.
Jensen, 30, was not just a figure in blue with a badge; he was a hero who was willing to sacrifice his everything to protect ours. A man whose passion was the stage – he graduated college with a degree in acting – Jensen wanted to make a difference in the community and chose to become an officer with the CSPD. In a statement from his family, Jensen was characterized "as a beloved uncle who loved golf and animals, especially his three cats."
There are few people who are as vital to a society's well being as police officers, and there are few groups as underappreciated by the general population as those same officers.
We have all heard it before, and maybe said it ourselves when we see those flashing lights in our rearview mirror, "Stupid cops, just out to get us." On Wednesday though, we were presented with a tragic reminder of what police officers are truly there for: to protect the public from those who intend to harm us.
"We know no one likes to see those flashing lights in their mirror. People are rarely happy to see police officers," said Fort Collin's Chief of Police Dennis Harrison. "But, it is a very important job these people do."
It is too easy for us to forget that those men and women with the flashing lights are more than just a uniform and a gun – they are just like you and me, only with a type of courage most of us are not familiar with.
The fact is, ladies and gentlemen, when we get pulled over for speeding, we are breaking the law and endangering those around us. We sit in our cars, angry we got caught, glaring at the officer as they walk toward us. While we sit cursing under our breath, the officer is faced with a completely different reality – because every time a police officer steps out of their patrol car, they have no idea what is waiting for them.
"We don't want to send the message that every day an officer is in danger, but it's a reality," Harrison said. "You just never know what the intentions are of an individual, or who has a gun. We just try to make sure we train our people to be prepared."
The police are not there to prevent us from living our daily lives; they are there to ensure that others can do the same. Yet, in many cases, it takes a tragedy like Jensen's for us to remember how lucky we are that there are individuals willing to put themselves in the line of fire.
"When people see something like this, they realize what officer's do, and say 'Wow, this is such a travesty,'" Harrison said. "I would hope that kind of consideration could filter down to the daily lives of these officers who are out there every day."
I couldn't agree with the chief more, and I hope you do too. It isn't a mistake that police lights flash red, white and blue; police officers are our everyday patriots and soldiers working to protect our nation from the inside out. The next time you see an officer pull up next to you at a traffic light, or walk into a restaurant, just take a moment to think about how lucky we are to have such brave individuals to protect us – and maybe utter a thank you under your breath instead of a curse.
Jake Blumberg is a technical journalism and political science double major. His column runs every Monday in the Collegian.