The last two weeks have been an emotional roller coaster ride for police officers in America. First there was the national attention to the two police-related shootings in Minnesota and Louisiana with significant media attention attached. Next, I am sure that all law enforcement shared the same sense of shock following the insane attack on Dallas Police officers on July 7, while they were actively working with and protecting peaceful protestors. As I watched television news showing video clips, I was horrified at the assault on the officers. And almost as quickly, I was inspired by other Dallas Police officers who ran toward the gunfire even as the protestors were fleeing. Other officers were running into the street to pull terrified protestors to the cover of parked cars and buildings. As I write this, news comes of the vigilante killing of three police officers in Baton Rouge, with another six wounded.
I pray that something will come of these tragic nightmares which will galvanize our country instead of dividing it. In the meantime, we are compelled to remember that Washington law enforcement has suffered similar ambushes in Lakewood and Seattle, and while I would like to believe it could never happen in Sequim, this kind of abomination can and does occur anywhere. So I immediately reminded my officers to be courageous and try not to let an enhanced level of vigilance adversely affect our relationship with the community we serve and protect. We looked inward to support one another as we all grieved and even questioned our own commitment to public safety. Lt. Col. David Grossman made a personal visit to Sequim earlier this year and when he addressed our officers, he said “The opposite of fear is love.”
The Dallas officers demonstrated this when the shooting began and officers ran TO the shooting to protect and save the protestors. They overcame fear and demonstrated their love of mankind. I think they are heroes. But the media attention to police shootings followed by these multiple attacks on police across our nation forces police officers to question their value to the community. I can tell you that morale among our local officers sank appreciably.
So it was with great surprise, that we observed some 30 or more citizens offering support in the form of a pro-police rally at Sequim Avenue and Washington Street a week ago Saturday following the Dallas attack. In the days following, many of our Sequim citizens began to appear at the combined Sequim Police Station and East Sheriff’s Precinct, bringing all kinds of support. We received pizza, fruit bowls, candy, snacks, cupcakes, gift cards (which we will ultimately use for charity since we do not accept gratuities), cards and letters of support and even flowers!
My officers and I have been stopped repeatedly by citizens on the street who have offered us votes of confidence and support. I cannot begin to tell you how important and meaningful this has been to the men and women of Olympic Peninsula law enforcement. They put their lives on the line every day to confront crime and violence in our communities. They do this because they took an oath to safeguard their fellow citizens. We believe in that oath and work for you, feel an allegiance to you and take pride in our desire to do our best to protect you and investigate crimes against our community. But we have to have faith in the confidence and support of the community we serve.
To all of you, the citizens of Sequim, who have taken the time to restore our faith, please know that you have given us the courage to go on, even during this time when all police officers are being unjustly villainized across America for the actions of the very few including or in some cases, even before all the facts of a particular incident have even been investigated. Sequim officers don’t make big city pay, but we love living and working here because this community is the most awesome! THANK YOU AGAIN!
Bill Dickinson is police chief for the City of Sequim.