The tragic, disturbing murder of Cold Spring-Richmond police officer Tom Decker is yet another reminder of how dangerous are the jobs of law-enforcement personnel.
In Minnesota, 124 officers have been killed by gunfire since 1881, according to the “Officer Down Memorial” webpage. The cold-blooded killing of Decker was, for those who remember, a traumatic flashback to the murder of officer Brian Klinefelter, who was shot to death by a suspect he stopped on Hwy. 75 in St. Joseph. That murder occurred on Jan. 29, 1996. Since then, 10 law-enforcement officers have been killed by gunfire in Minnesota, including a woman – Melissa Jayne Schmidt, a Minneapolis officer shot to death on Aug. 1, 2002.
Throughout the nation, 72 officers were shot and killed in 2011.
These awful murders should remind us to appreciate and to thank the law-enforcement servants who protect us. It’s often said law enforcement is the “thin blue line” that separates public safety and security from chaos and danger. These good people truly do serve on that thin blue line. They are constantly putting themselves in danger, and that danger can come from the most unexpected places, such as an officer checking on the well-being of someone threatening suicide, as happened in the case of Decker’s murder. What a tragic irony it was – a police officer killed in the attempt to do a good deed, a possible intervention to get the man the help he needed.
And, lest we forget, it’s not just ambush murders that happen to officers. It’s every conceivable kind of death that can happen in zones of crises and emergency situations – the very places where law officers tend to be. Law-enforcement personnel have been killed in accidents, by being struck while directing traffic, crushed in structural collapses, in accidental electrocutions and in falls from high heights. The very nature of their jobs subjects law officers to those ever-present dangers.
Serious injuries and deaths, including murders, as we know all too well, can happen anywhere – big cities and small towns and in the most remote rural areas.
Every day, our police and sheriff’s officers put their lives on the line. Imagine the stress their families endure, knowing every day when daddies or mommies leave for their law-enforcement jobs, they may never see them again. And imagine the family’s horror and grief when that “knock on the door” arrives, as it did for the loved ones of Tom Decker, the 31-year-old father of four young children.
We want to help honor the memory of Decker for his 10 years of service in Isle, Kimball, Richmond and Cold Spring. The kudos keep coming in about what a great officer Decker was. He always went the extra mile to help somebody in need.
We also want to extend our sympathies to Decker’s family and to his many friends who will miss him so much. Decker is a good example of why we should be constantly grateful for those who put their lives on the line to protect the rest of us. They are true heroes. Let’s never forget them.