WILLIAMSON – Law enforcement officers risk their lives every day that they are on duty to serve and protect the general public.
With the recent shootings involving police officers across the country, there have been mixed emotions from both sides of the spectrum.
Although many of the cases of officers involved in shootings and the subsequent ambush of policemen are in larger cities, don’t think that it can’t happen in smaller towns and rural areas.
The Williamson Daily News talked with some local law enforcement officers to get their opinions on the incidents that have literally rocked the United States.
“I don’t know – what everyone has seen on TV – is not the totality of the situation,” said Sgt. M.S. Lively of the Williamson detachment of the West Virginia State Police (WVSP). “I don’t know all of the facts. But if you watch a few seconds of a blurb – it looks horrific.”
“That can create a poor perception and the wrong image,” Lively added. “I am going to wait until the investigation is complete.”
Mingo County Sheriff James Smith also commented on the situation.
“It could happen anywhere,” Smith said of the assaults against law enforcement officers. “Anytime a police officer is on duty – I think the chance of them getting attacked is greater than it ever has been.”
“It’s scary for police officers. We are here to protect the public,” the sheriff added. “We try to work with the people.”
Sgt. Lively said a lot more could have happened than what has been shown on videos taken at the crime scenes. “That is only a few seconds of an entire incident,” the sergeant continued. He indicated that most arrests take a lot longer than that and much more could have occurred before the incident was filmed.
“I think we need to step back and not be too quick to make judgement until all the facts come out,” Lively said. “Those kinds of perceptions can create the belief that law enforcement acted wrongly. It can create an environment where some people choose to take matters into their own hands. I think that is what has happened,” Lively added.
“The retaliation and violence against officers has esculated so much partly because of the way the president has handled those situations in Dallas, Louisiana and the Ferguson (Missouri) shooting a couple of years ago,” Sheriff Smith added. “I think he has promoted the violence against cops – instead of trying to calm the situation down and trying to come up with a solution.”
“I think it has escalated to where it is almost out of control now,” Smith stated. “I think we need to pass some laws to make it tougher on those who attack police officers. We’re vulnerable out there.”
Smith said it should be a federal crime to attack or threaten law enforcement officers. “It is a hate crime,” Smith said, “when they target police officers it is a specific threat – when you are targeting a group just to harm or kill a police officer – it is a hate crime. No matter what ethic group you are with, they are harming officers who are out there trying to protect the citizens where they live and serve.”
“We are targets – we have uniforms and are visible,” Smith said. “It is getting to the point where officers are fearful when answering calls.”
Sgt. Lively said although most of these incidents happen in metropolitan areas, it can happen here as well. “I want everyone to know that we treat everyone fairly, equally and within the law. We want to avoid these situations.”
(Kyle Lovern is the Managing Editor for the Civitas Media Mountain District including the Williamson Daily News and Logan Banner. He can be contacted at [email protected] or at 304-235-4242, ext. 2277 or on Twitter @KyleLovern.)