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Cop’s Eye View: In the line of duty

By Danny McGuire

I had planned my next column to continue my thoughts on police perspectives; however, something happened during the writing phase which changed my thoughts and plans.

Chicago Police Cmdr. Paul Bauer was shot and killed the line of duty.

Paul and I were assigned to the same unit many years ago. He also would visit my friend, the late Captain Mark Marianovich, while Mark was battling cancer at Northwestern Memorial Hospital early last year. Paul was a good man and his sacrifice to the city of Chicago is one that causes deep scars to the men and women who serve, not just in Chicago, but everywhere.

Paul’s death brought back memories for me of being a member of the Emerald Society Bagpipe Band and the Chicago Police Pipes and Drums. We played at all the funerals for the line-of-duty deaths over the course of 20 years. Participating in events which pay respects to our fallen sisters and brothers is both humbling and an honor. Our comrades who gave their lives to the municipalities they protect and serve was something I took very seriously and still reflect on often.

Honoring our fallen is a great tradition in law enforcement that dates back to its formalized inception. Police officers lining the streets during funeral processions, bagpipe bands playing and eulogies about the person who gave their life in service are a culturally unique part of this phenomenon.

Officers train and prepare for situations which are dangerous on a daily basis, and many of us handle situations that most civilians wouldn’t even think of getting involved in. Police officers are the last line of defense to keep total chaos and anarchy from the guardians of peace and tranquility.

As of late, our brothers and sisters have been getting beat up pretty good in social media, media and other avenues people use to spread negativity about what we do while having no actual knowledge about the profession. This negative energy sometimes overwhelms us and, as I have studied in the past, impacts the ability of many people to carry out their daily duties as it relates to traditional police work.

Paul’s death is significant because, just like all law enforcement professionals paying the ultimate sacrifice, he was a guardian of the peace. He was someone who ran into danger rather than running away from it.

In the Bible, Matthew speaks of the eight Beatitudes Jesus Christ taught us. Two of the Beatitudes come to my mind when I think of police officers and other law enforcement professionals. They are:

“Blessed are the merciful: they shall have mercy shown them.”

“Blessed are the peacemakers: they shall be recognized as children of God.”

This tragic situation also made me reflect on another biblical writing by John who said, “No one can have greater love than to lay down his life for his friends.”

In Paul’s case, he was chasing someone for his fellow officers who called for assistance. Many officers do this every single day, never knowing who the offender might be or what they might be capable of doing. Yet, officers will pursue the offender without hesitation.

As thoughts raced through my head and ideas began to circle, I decided to really focus on the nature of line-of-duty deaths. I did some research using the numbers from the Officer Down Memorial Page from January 2002 through the beginning of this month.

During that span of time, there were a total of 2,583 on-duty deaths. The causes of those deaths are illustrated below.

Gunfire led to the most deaths of an officer lost while doing his or her job, followed by vehicle crashes and heart attacks to comprise the leading causes.

The deadliest year for law enforcement during the time period researched was 2007 with 206 line-of-duty deaths. The top two leading causes of law enforcement deaths that year – gunfire and automobile crashes – mirrored the overall trend of my research that covered 16-plus years of data.

The number says a lot, but the fact each and every one of these deaths represented a life cut short in the name of protecting and serving others speaks louder. Next time, I’ll share more about the information I collected.

Until then, please be good to each other, stay safe and remember the words of Matthew when he said, “Blessed are the peacemakers: they shall be recognized as children of God.”

Dr. Danny L. McGuire, Jr. is an Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at National Louis University in Chicago, IL with over 20 years of law enforcement experience. Danny can be reached at dannymcg@dancamcom.biz or dmcguire3@nl.edu.

Read all of his Cop’s Eye View columns here.