Recent deaths of sheriff’s deputies in Adams and Lincoln counties raise some interesting issues among coppers and civilians alike.
In both instances, the officers died as a result of traffic accidents and it appears in both cases other drivers were NOT at fault. Neither copper was wearing a seat belt. The Lincoln County deputy was ejected from his vehicle which flipped apparently at high speed on a curve. The Adams County deputy crashed head-on into another vehicle when his patrol unit drifted across the center of a two lane highway resulting in the death of both the deputy and an Air Force officer.
Idaho’s mandatory seat belt law makes an exception for coppers. We look for that to get changed in the next legislative session and would support mandatory use of the safety restraint–many departments already require seat belt use as department policy.
Nationwide the vast majority of police deaths are caused by traffic accidents–not through gunfights or other criminal action. The position of many insider coppers is: “they wear the badge and choose to risk their lives for the public, so therefore we honor their service in the event of death.”
That’s a noble gesture, but it seems there isn’t a well defined policy of when and where the various honor guards, bagpipers, motorcycle patrols, and police units attend funerals of their “fallen comrades.” At present, Boise PD sends two honor guard members and two motorcycles to these “show funerals” which often have hundreds of police cars in the procession. They can also be hundreds of miles away.
Indeed, it is appropriate for anyone to attend the funeral of someone they know and respect as they are sent to their final resting place. The tenuous link of being in the same occupation seems a bit weak.
For example we wouldn’t expect a delegation of groundskeepers from a municipal golf course in Boise attending the funeral of a groundskeeper in Pocatello who died when he crashed a pick-up or tractor while on duty.
While many are concerned with the expense to the jurisdictions sending officers to copper funerals, it should be noted there are multiple messages being sent as well. For the survivors it is comforting to have their loved ones honored by “brother officers.” For some citizens, it sets coppers apart from pilots, linemen, construction workers, timber workers, and farmers who also risk their lives daily and die more frequently. If coppers go to funerals of other coppers just because they are coppers, it sends a message to many citizens that coppers are more important than other citizens.
Perhaps the basic question is: “Would you attend the funeral if the person was not a copper?”
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