Editorial: We must do more to protect the police who protect us

Reduce circumstances that get police killed
Police officers around the state were remembered for making the supreme sacrifice in a ceremony in Albany May 8, 2018.
Police officers around the state were remembered for making the supreme sacrifice in a ceremony in Albany May 8, 2018.

Another name will soon be added to the wall.

Trooper Nicholas F. Clark will join more than 1,500 other New York police officers killed in the line of duty who are memorialized on the State of New York Police Officers Memorial, an array of curved, polished black granite blocks located on the Empire State Plaza in the shadow of the state capitol.

Clark, 29, was shot to death early Monday after responding to a domestic incident involving a suicidal man in the tiny Steuben County town of Erwin.

A former superstar football player and wrestler, he had only graduated the State Police Academy three years ago.

He is the second state trooper to die in action in the past year and the 13th in the last five years.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday summed up our collective anguish and frustration over the latest in a long line of police officers’ deaths.

“There’s no answer. There’s no point. It’s just sad and painful.”

As we take a midweek break to mark the day of our nation’s independence, we naturally remember and thank the military veterans of all the wars who fought and died on the front lines in service to our country.

Trooper Clark’s death also reminds us of the sacrifices made by thousands of local police officers, sheriff’s deputies, state troopers, FBI agents and other members of law enforcement who fight every day on the front lines of our local communities to keep us safe.

So far this year, at least 46 law enforcement officers have been killed in the line of duty in the United States. Last year, 129 officers were killed. In 2016, 135 officers lost their lives.

Now is the time to mourn, not to legislate.

But we as a society would be doing a disservice to the officers killed, and to those who continue to put their lines on the line, by not addressing the circumstances that contribute to the deaths of police officers.

We need to address access to guns, particularly to those with mental issues, those involved in domestic violence, and suicidal individuals. Of the 46 officers killed this year in America, 28 have been killed by gunfire.

Trooper Clark was killed by a high school principal whose estranged wife had called police saying her husband was distraught and suicidal. The man ultimately shot Trooper Clark before taking his own life.

We need to do more to address domestic violence, by increasing efforts to educate people about the signs of domestic violence and what to do about it. We need to provide more services and resources to individuals, families and couples to prevent situations from escalating.

We need to focus more attention on drug and alcohol abuse and their contributions to violence. And we need to direct more attention and resources to mental health, suicide prevention and bullying.

There’s no single or simple solution to protecting police officers.

And many people are already actively engaged in such efforts.

But this death and the deaths of so many other police officers in the line of duty must reinforce our vigilance to do even more.

Trooper Clark’s name will be the latest name added to the police memorial wall.

We should be doing all we can to make sure no others join him there.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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