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Remembering officers who gave all
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National Police Week occurs each year during the week of May 15, and this year it takes place in the form of various ceremonies from May 9-15 in Washington D.C. Locally, there will be a memorial ceremony for the peace officers killed in Stanislaus County on Wednesday, May 5, at Lakewood Memorial Park, at 10 a.m. It is a time to recognize the law enforcement personnel who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty. It also serves as a tribute and appreciation to the survivors of peace officers killed while protecting the people of our society. The survivors who live on suffer with the pain and heartache as they endure the permanent loss of a person most important to them.

During 2009, six California police officers lost their lives, of which four were killed on the same day in late March during the notorious Oakland shootings. In the same year, Modesto Police Sergeant Steve May died from injuries sustained seven years earlier - he had remained in a coma since then. Since 1935, 13 peace officers have died in the line of duty in Stanislaus County. Since 1792, approximately 18,300 peace officers have been killed in the line of duty in the United States.

Another significant statistic that affects peace officers, yet receives relatively little attention, is the number of occasions that peace officers are assaulted each year. Physical attacks on peace officers happen about 60,000 times annually, and while these assaults do not lead to the officers' deaths, some of those injured end up permanently disabled. Many assaults are vicious and crippling to the victim officers such that they are forced to retire. The human toll itself is sad, but it is also costly to the taxpayers when officers are injured and can never return to work. The public also loses when there are fewer able-bodied officers available to keep neighborhoods safe and to investigate crimes.

It does seem that while the number of officers killed in California is lower than in past years, the viciousness of attacks on them is higher. The police, therefore, must rely on enhanced protective gear and improved self defense tactics. The majority of assaults on peace officers occur during disturbance calls like family fights and barroom brawls. The attacks included suspects hitting, kicking, biting, cutting, throwing objects, spitting on and hitting the officers with clubs or any other object capable of inflicting injuries.

The men and women who dedicate their lives in service to others know what they are getting into when they accept the peace officer's job. They and their loved ones know that each shift may be their last as they work to police the most violent and dangerous people of society. And there are also the silent killers, like the increased vulnerability to heart attacks and strokes. Peace officers are physically exposed to people who have dangerous diseases, while at the same time their own bodies suffer from repetitious adrenaline surges that result from confronting danger, conflicts and threats throughout their careers.

It is with much appreciation that National Police Week takes place each year in formal recognition of those who protect and serve the people of our country.