Thursday, August 16, 2007

At what price, this 'routine' vigil?

Yesterday a Sgt. from one of our local sheriff's offices was killed. This is an opinion in today's local paper. I like Howard Troxler, sometimes I don't agree with him (what do they say about opinions?). I really like this tribute and think it applies to all who do the 'routine' job of Law Enforcement.

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By HOWARD TROXLER, Times Staff Writer
Published August 16, 2007


At least 22 arrests dating from age 12. A prison record. A history of violence. An upcoming trial that seemed likely to put him back behind bars.

Michael Allen Phillips had built some track record. And he was just 24 years old.

"Mike was mentally unstable," his ex-girlfriend told a reporter Wednesday, "but he was a good person, too."

Definitions vary.

Early Wednesday, good person or not, authorities say that he shot and killed a veteran Hillsborough County sheriff's deputy, told his ex-girlfriend of the act, and informed her that he was coming for her family next.

Deputies soon found Phillips at his mother's home in Brandon. According to Sheriff David Gee, he spouted Aryan sayings over the telephone to negotiators. Phillips then exchanged gunfire with the SWAT team that surrounded the house. That decision did not turn out well for him.

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Some years ago an officer pulled me over in the rain. For some idiot reason I got the idea I would save him some trouble, got out and ran toward his cruiser.

The officer threw open his door, dropped to one knee and called on me to stop RIGHT NOW. I do not remember seeing his weapon but he would have been right to draw it.

This memory never left me, not just because of my own stupid act, but because of what it showed about the nature of his job.

Hour after hour, day after day, it is routine, boring, frustrating, rewarding, and then in the span of seconds before you can finish this sentence, you are stone dead.

Sometimes you get advance notice of the risk. Tampa Bay officers have lost their lives in hot pursuit of killers, responding to violent crimes or being involved in undercover assignments.

But the circumstances of their deaths also include: approaching a parked car, making a routine traffic stop and even just sitting in their own vehicle. What other job is like this? What if selling cars, or accounting, or cutting hair, could be fatal any second?

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Sgt. Ron Harrison apparently wasn't chasing a murderer, or a kidnapper, or breaking up a robbery.

He had been at a DUI checkpoint, given that he was the sheriff's head of DUI enforcement.

They say he seemed to be in a good mood as he left. Maybe he was thinking, as he pulled away, that they had made the roads safer that night.

It is not clear exactly how Harrison was shot, or whether Phillips was in a car or on foot.

Either way, Harrison apparently realized he had minutes at best, no time even to radio. He turned his car, maybe headed for the closest hospital. His cruiser left the road and hit a tree, which is where they found him. He was 55.

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I have a neighbor, a nice guy, friendly to everybody, great sense of humor. He and his wife just had a baby boy, their first.

Sometimes I see him out on the street and wave. Sometimes he pulls up in front of my house and we shoot the breeze for a few minutes.

Then he drives away in his police cruiser for his night shift. The idea that he might pull away and that I might never see him again - that his wife and his baby might not - I cannot imagine it, nor imagine what guts it takes to live that way, or at what cost.

4 comments:

Dave said...

My middle brother was a Marine. My youngest brother was an EMT. One of my best friends is an Atlanta policeman. Another friend was a Ranger back in the Eighties.

Me, I talk a pretty good game. I always try to talk them up.

friend at work said...

Did the husband go to the funeral service? I know many who did today. It really sucks.

SonjaB said...

No, he's not the funeral type. I watch some of it on TV.

Dave said...

How's the job search doing?