I sat there, watching my phone. Said a quick prayer, then checked my phone again. It was just after 3 a.m. on a Saturday morning. I had received a call from my supervisor around midnight about an incident that had occurred. As a public information officer for a small city government, my role was to help organize and send out information to the media and the public about it.
We were waiting to hear if an armed murder suspect had been caught. The SWAT team was sent into a marsh where the subject had fled. A helicopter with heat-sensing technology tracked the man, and it was up to the SWAT team on the ground to find and arrest him. We didn't know if he was still armed. There were a lot of unknowns, including the outcome.
The men and women on the SWAT team were not just officers, they were my coworkers, my friends. They were fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, sisters and brothers. They left their houses in the middle of the night, and their families waited up for their return. I prayed they would all go home safely.
I thought about the police chief who was waiting for the radio report to come in. Once he heard, he would let my supervisor and I know we could distribute the press release.
Finally, my phone sounded off, and I let out the breath I was holding. The suspect was arrested. No one was injured. It went as smoothly as we hoped.
Sadly, we know that not all police missions end this well, and we observe National Peace Officers Memorial Day in honor of the federal, state and local law enforcement officers killed or disabled in the line of duty. While it is not an official federal holiday, this memorial always falls on May 15 during National Police Week. Flags are usually ordered at half mast and as many as 40,000 people from around the country and the world gather in Washington D.C. to honor our fallen law enforcement officers at the annual National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service.
Most Police Week events were canceled this year due to the pandemic. However, the 32nd Annual National Law Enforcement Officers Candlelight Vigil was held virtually on Wednesday. 307 names of men and women who lost their lives in the line of duty were read in respect, honor and remembrance. Their sacrifices for us can never be repaid but we can make sure they are never forgotten. These heroes’ names are added to our National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.
It was an honor to work in crisis communications alongside police officers, and I learned a lot about what the public doesn’t always see. From a traffic stop to a SWAT call, officers show up on the scene not knowing what is going to happen. They put our safety before their own and risk their lives to protect us. Our men and women in uniform see their work as a duty, a service to our communities. I am so grateful to them for carrying this duty out, day and night, every single day.
We shouldn’t need a special day or week to show appreciation to these selfless public servants, but Peace Officers Memorial Day provides a great opportunity to recognize what we often take for granted. The men and women who have lost their lives in the line of duty are heroes, and we owe them a huge debt of gratitude. We seldom hear policemen and women referred to as “peace officers,” but the seen and unseen sacrifices they and their loved ones make daily is what keeps the peace in our communities.
Editor's Note: Jessi Ebben is a Republican candidate in Wisconsin’s 3rd Congressional District and a public relations professional from Eau Claire.