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Appreciate Law Enforcement Year-Round

National Police week is May 13-19.

I can't tell you how many times I've overheard someone talk negatively about police officers and other law enforcement officials.

All too often, I believe, the police are painted as the bad guys, writing tickets and making arrests. But they're also the first people you call when you need help.

I bring this up now because May 13-19 is National Police Week. Police Week began in 1962 when President John F. Kennedy signed a proclamation declaring May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day and the corresponding week as Police Week.

This resonates with me because I grew up with a police officer - my dad. Every night, my mom would kiss him goodbye and tell him to "be careful."

I knew he had a dangerous job, but it never really sunk in until the night one of his fellow officers was shot and killed while on duty. Officer Richard Vauris was 54-years-old. It was a horrible feeling and I didn't get a full night's sleep for months after that worrying about my dad at work.

May of 2002 was my first introduction to National Police Week. My family traveled with the department's Honor Guard to Washington DC, where the name Richard L. Vauris was added to the National Law Enforcement Memorial Wall. His End of Watch (EOW) was Feb. 19, 2001.

To this day, I've still never seen anything like it. Tens of thousands of people from all over the country gather in the capital to pay respects to these men and women. Police officers and Honor Guard members from hundreds of different departments bring patches to trade with each other. After witnessing something like that, you see that law enforcement is truly a brotherhood.

National Police Week is a huge event that includes motorcycle rides, bicycle rides, runs, memorial wreathlaying ceremonies, a candlelight vigil and much more.

Thinking back on my visit, I can't help but wonder why, if we have such a huge national event, do we not celebrate our appreciation for law enforcement on a state and local level as well?

Locally, the Brighton Police Department will name its Police Officer of the Year during the City Council meeting on Thursday, but I wonder if more could be done locally to highlight the everyday heroes in our community.

According to the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund, the names of 362 officers killed in the line of duty will be added to the memorial wall this year. That includes 162 officers that were killed in 2011, and 199 officers who had died in previous years, but whose stories had been lost to history.

That's 162 officers that died to protect their communities. All of them with wives, children, mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers left behind to mourn.

So next time you encounter a police officer,  think of thanking him or her for keeping you and this community safe.

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