By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Blue line getting thinly dangerous
Placeholder Image
The front line of defense in California and the rest of the nation are being whittled down due to budget cuts that end up putting officers in jeopardy and threatening community safety.

Such action has the unintended consequence of making police officers a cheap commodity as the economy demands pay and retirement cuts along with fewer officers. Along with those cuts has been a 40 percent increase in the number of men and women wearing the uniform who laid down their lives protecting their communities in 2010. That is 160 officers slain.

In addition to Manteca, Stockton, Modesto and Ripon there are two other departments in the Bay Area and in Southern California where I've followed the impact of cuts. It seems they are the result of a common thread among city managers wanting to see unions broken and pay scales and officers' numbers sliced to balance budgets without raising taxes or gutting other municipal programs.

Those cuts are decreasing the mutual aid benefits between departments when the need develops putting communities at risk. Seeing the Mexican drug cartels coming northward across the southern border and with Interstate 5 and Highway 99 running up the state, there is an ever growing need for more than minimum police protection.

Many cities are pitting firefighters against police in an effort to gain public support in their attempt to cut the cost of their first line of defense. It's really unfair as the firefighters are seen as the heroes, always arriving on the scene to help those in need while more often police are going to be arresting someone's dad, brother or husband, son or wife.

And the fire guys often get a chance to sleep when their call demand is low unlike police officers who have to always be patrolling on the streets. It's something of an apples and oranges comparison.

So why pay police officers so much and why do they deserve an early pension at the age of 50 that so many seem to be pondering right now? It's not only the nature of their job, but the fact is that many of them often get less than four hours sleep working overtime on 10- and 12-hour shifts.

Officers who are laid off for the sake of the overall department's budgets, can cause mandates for other patrolmen to work second shifts - as many as 20 hours total without rest. That, of course, is while carrying a sidearm, being issued an automatic weapon and a high-speed pursuit vehicle.

"Just too bad," I have heard some say. "They're getting paid big bucks and they applied for that job." It all adds up to a much shorter life expectancy with many officers dying 15 to 20 years before their time, not to mention the suicides that occur near the end of their service.

On a recent past weekend there was a female officer in Southern California I know who came within a thread of either killing a Los Angeles gang member or being killed herself. She was backing up her partner shortly before midnight at the right side of a vehicle in a car stop when she saw the driver pull a semi-automatic hand gun from beneath the dash board and swing his arm around in her direction.

Her finger was pressuring the trigger as she shouted "gun" to warn her partner.

Had it not been for a third officer who rushed in behind the patrolman who had been asking for the driver's "license and insurance" drawing his weapon, the report would have been written differently. The gun sights' laser beam put a red target dot on the driver's chest with positive results of a weapon being dropped to the floor or one or both of them would be dead today. It was the second backup officer who saved at least one life - not the first. Three other gang members were in the car from LA with unknown plans for the night.

The 40 percent increase in the 2010 on-duty police officer deaths came after a two-year decline. According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, there were 160 federal, state and local officers killed while on duty this past year.

Shreveport Police Chief Willie Shaw probably said it best for officers serving around the country.

"I think it goes without saying that police work can be and often times is a dangerous profession. The men and women who so proudly wear the badges are literally out there on the front lines of our communities, fighting crime every day as part of the oath they took to serve and protect.

"Unfortunately, we have seen firsthand over the years how traumatic the loss of a brother or sister officer can be, not only to the police department but to our city as well."

Police officers are trained to work as a team and when that team is cut below a safety level a troubling and lessening morale level follows - that's dangerous for everybody.