The news trickled in slowly. First, I started getting text messages from fellow officers that work the opposite shift. Then my wife showed me a facebook post. Three officers had been shot, and one was fighting for her life. I felt sick to my stomach. The shooting happened about 15 miles from my house. My wife works with someone who’s husband is a cop in Prince William County, and I recently trained with some officers from there. I have always found them to be competent and professional. My wife began asking questions as she and I watched the breaking story on the local news.
“Are domestics always like this?……How do you know if the person has a gun?……What sort of information do you receive when you respond to these?,” were just some of the questions my wife asked.
I didn’t really know how to answer her questions. How do I explain police work to someone that isn’t a cop?
I didn’t know Officer Ashley Guindon. But she wore a badge and was a cop and so am I. That is a lot in common to those that know the job. She was responding to reports of a domestic dispute. I have been in her shoes many times and have responded to similar type domestic dispute calls for service dozens and dozens of times in my career.
“Unit…respond for a domestic situation. 123 Main Street, male and female arguing. No further information.”
I explained to my wife that you respond to where you are dispatched and figure it out. I told my wife that on domestic calls sometimes you are part Priest, part Dr Phil, part Oprah, and a part John Wayne. Sometimes you are all of those.
But again it is difficult to explain that to someone that isn’t a cop.
There has been a lot of scrutiny of law enforcement lately. Some have asked when the scrutiny started. I have heard fellow officers say it started after Ferguson. Others say it was Baltimore. I have even heard other officers say it started after Rodney King. Regardless of where the scrutiny came from, one thing is certain. Americans are questioning the role of police in society and also questioning how they want to be policed.
It is ironic that criminals and evil aren’t debating how they want to be policed. I simply cannot fathom what would drive someone to kill his wife, with their 11 year old son in the house, then kill a police officer and shoot two more. The only way I can process the situation is to call it evil. That evil is still out there and someone has to answer the call to fight it.
Ashley Guindon answered the call and she paid for it with her life.
We don’t always get it right in law enforcement. In fact, sometimes we get it very wrong. There are plenty of viral internet stories in the news about cops pepper spraying an 11 year old, or throwing an elderly person to the ground and handcuffing them. When law enforcement gets it wrong I definitely think we should be held accountable, both professionally and legally. But we also get a lot of things right that never make the news. In the past several weeks, in my department, I have witnessed incredible acts of courage and heroism. I have witnessed a supervisor who I greatly respect, with a reputation as a no-nonsense take no prisoners guy, talk a young girl off of an bridge overpass who was going to jump. I saw this supervisor talk her off the bridge before she jumped, then hug and console her as she cried uncontrollably. He hugged her, placed her in his car, then personally drove her to the hospital to see a mental health counselor.
I recently witnessed another officer save the life of two stabbing victims. This officer used emergency trauma care to apply tourniquets and gauze to stop the bleeding. These stabbing victims would have died without the immediate trauma care he provided. After the call, he washed his hands, assisted in the investigation, then continued his shift. There are alarms to handle, house checks to conduct, other calls to answer.
These acts of heroism won’t be on the nightly news. Just part of the job. Such is the life of a police officer.
Recently, some in the media have even suggested that being a cop is not really dangerous anymore. I was sickened when I read examples of these stories in the Washington Post that suggest that the safety mindset that officers employ could get in the way of community relations and that the culture has changed making the profession safer.
NONSENSE! Even when law enforcement has done everything to make the profession safer they don’t get the credit. Somehow the culture gets it? Now there are some that are calling for the very training that has helped make law enforcement safer to be done away with. The silliness never stops.
Tell the family of Officer Guindon and the two other Officers that were shot that it is all safer. Or try telling it to the families of the hundreds of other police officers killed, wounded and injured. Tell them that policing is safer. I would argue that policing is not any safer now than it was 10 or 15 years ago. I think policing has become more professional and we have learned from tragic incidents in which officers have been killed or wounded.
The questions that Americans are asking about the role of police in society will most likely continue for some time. In the meantime, it is important to mourn the passing of Officer Guindon, celebrate her life and her ultimate sacrifice. If you see a police officer in your community, consider letting them know you appreciate what they do. Don’t buy them a cup of coffee, lunch, or dinner. Just simply say thank you and try to remember while we as a country try to figure who we want our police to be and how we want them to respond, there are people like Officer Guindon out there every day answering someone’s call for help.
William Gage is an experienced and award winning law enforcement professional that recently returned to local law enforcement with the Leesburg VA Police Department, after a 12 year career as a Special Agent with the United States Secret Service. During his 12 years with the Secret Service, he was the recipient of numerous awards for investigative and protective excellence. He has participated in hundreds of protective missions, and has done numerous foreign and domestic foreign protective advances for the President, Vice-President, and others. These included protective missions to hostile areas such as Iraq, and Afghanistan. William also served as the Lead Tactical Advance Agent for numerous National Special Security Events (NSSEs), and served as a Team Leader on the elite Counter Assault Team (CAT) focusing on active shooter response, threat mitigation and planning at the White House and other U.S. Government functions and facilities. Prior to joining the Secret Service, William was a Police Officer in Leesburg, Virginia where he received awards for exceptional performance. During his time as a Police Officer has as served as a SWAT Officer, and Bike Officer. He returned to local law enforcement in 2013, and returned to the Leesburg Police Department and currently works Patrol. William also works as an active shooter and security consultant with several companies, including PSIG, BLR, and Willis. He has given numerous public presentations about active shooter awareness, training and preparation and has appeared on various other media outlets including CNN and CSPAN. He also helps businesses with continuity of operations planning and logistics. He has written for several law enforcement and security journals, to include Law Officer, Police One, Tactical Solutions Magazine, and others. He holds a B.A. from the Virginia Military Institute, and an M.A. from Boston University.