Law enforcement professionals from local police forces to sheriff’s departments, state police and federal law enforcement agencies leave home each day not knowing what challenges they will experience, but ready to face danger head on in order to make the communities they serve safer.
Sadly, last year proved to be particularly dangerous for law enforcement. The COVID-19 pandemic is one reason 2020 was one of the deadliest years for officers in recent memory. To honor the service and heroism of the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty, the names of theses fallen officers are etched into the walls of the National Law Enforcement Memorial. This year, 394 officers killed in the line of duty have been added to the memorial including four Arkansans who we hold close to our hearts.
Sergeant James Dancy of the North Little Rock Police Department was a 35-year veteran of the police force who helped mentor young officers at the department. He contracted COVID-19 while performing his job.
Officer Travis Wallace of the Helena-West Helena Police Department gave his life while attempting to apprehend a suspect wanted in connection with a violent crime.
Pine Bluff Detective Kevin Collins had a lifelong dream to serve as a police officer. He made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty while conducting an ongoing investigation.
Hot Springs Police Officer Corporal Brent Scrimshire, who had earned recognition as the Arkansas Southwest Region Officer of the Year in 2016, lost his life while conducting a traffic stop.
We honor these Arkansans and law enforcement officers all across the country who courageously gave their lives to uphold law and order. Their deaths are tragic and call us to acknowledge their tremendous heroism and selflessness. They also invite us to appreciate the reality that the stakes of this occupation are a lot higher than most others – they are life and death. The perilous nature of policing and law enforcement is something we simply can’t underestimate or fail to respect.
Over the past year, we’ve witnessed increased calls for defunding or abolishing police forces across the country. Instead of this misguided approach, we need to improve investments and resources for the men and women in blue.
That’s why it’s important that Congress fund programs like the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant program, which has proven vital to helping states and local law enforcement agencies purchase equipment and support training for officers. We should also pass the Back the Blue Act and Protect and Serve Act to help strengthen laws that protect police officers and hold those who perpetrate attacks against law enforcement accountable.
In addition to those important steps, we should also help police prepare for the encounters they are having in communities nationwide. I’ve joined efforts to craft a bill that would provide police with better strategies and procedures to respond to calls involving a mental health crisis and I’m hopeful that with additional tools and improved training officers will be able to identify how to best serve the needs of the entire community.
On behalf of all Arkansans, I thank all of our law enforcement officers for making sacrifices to keep us safe. I will continue advocating for improved tools, resources and training for officers so they can prepare for unpredictable circumstances.
Our safety and peace of mind come at a cost, and our police officers need our support and gratitude for being the first ones to pay it. We honor them continually for what they do and what they represent.
John Boozman is a U.S. Senator from Arkansas. He is a Republican.