09/23/08 — A badge and gun: With great power comes great responsibility

View Archive

A badge and gun: With great power comes great responsibility

This community has always supported law enforcement officers and their efforts to keep this county safe.

There is no disputing that.

But with that support comes a trust -- an understanding that these are men and women who not only will enforce the law, but who will act with compassion and restraint whenever possible.

We know they face dangers every day and that sometimes tragedies occur in the performance of their duties. No one would ever fault an officer for making sure he gets back to his family safely.

We get that no one can understand what it is like to be on a scene unless he or she is there facing a criminal and a barrel of a gun.

We trust you to use deadly force sparingly -- and only when absolutely necessary. We expect that not just because we see you as the keepers of justice, but also because we want to teach our children that there is a right and a wrong way to handle challenges -- and sometimes the right path is not the easiest. We want to be able to point to your courage, bravery and honor as an example to follow.

And this past week, in this case, this officer did not live up to that standard -- and some people are questioning how he would react in a similar situation under much more real stress.

This was only a dog, some people will say. It is not a real judgment of how the Mount Olive Police Department would handle a hostage situation or a fight at the local high school.

But, you see, it is, because part of being a police officer is establishing a confidence and trust from your community.

And like it or not Chief Ralph Schroeder, that has been compromised.

The good news is, this can be fixed, even if the pain cannot be erased.

Mount Olive police need a better policy on handling animal calls and more training for officers. And if there is a problem with Animal Control and getting a quick response in cases like the one involving the Labrador retriever, that needs to be addressed as well.

But in the meantime, it is time to be leaders and to say "we might have been within the law, but we did not do the best job we could have."

That makes us think you get it. We expect more from you -- and for you to set an example for the rest of us.

When we give you a shotgun or a weapon of any kind, we issue along with it a great big heaping bowl of accountability and responsibility -- and we hold you to a higher standard as officers.

And we hold you to that standard because you asked us to, when you swore to serve and protect this community.

So, we will keep watching -- and waiting.

Published in Editorials on September 23, 2008 10:55 AM