Former law enforcement members support, appreciate current peace officers
By Mason Watkins
LYON COUNTY, Ky. -
There is fear, mistrust, and contention between police and some of the communities they protect. Former peace officers concerned for safety say education is the answer. Larry Bland said, "I think the public needs to be educated in the proper manner in which to act around an officer."
Protests against police violence and aggression have seemingly been put on hold after months of demonstrations across the nation. The execution-style murders of two NYPD officers have shifted the current conversation to focus on officers killed in the line of duty.
The director of the FBI says 114 police officers were killed while working in 2014. That's a sharp increase from 2013 when police deaths hit their lowest number in almost 60 years. Those compassionate toward the cause say the current climate between police and the public is putting lives in danger. A local chapter of The Fraternal Order of Police is setting out to make sure officers know they are supported and appreciated.
Circled around a small table, former peace officers with decades of experience between them discussed the threats facing the men and women who follow behind them. "It's getting to the point where it's a battle on the streets," said Bland. He is the president of the Barkley Lodge FOP and said the violent clashes in other communities have him concerned for peace officers in our area. "We really have to be concerned about their well being, because they're out there to protect the public."
A lot of the threats of violence Bland talked about come from fringe groups on the internet, but the internet is also the place where officers currently serving can find support. "It's a small percentage that's opposed to the police, but they're making a lot of noise for a small group," said Bland. That's why Bland and other members of the FOP are going to participate in National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day on Friday. "I'm gonna be by the penitentiary, by the entrance, and let them officers know coming and going from work that I do appreciate what they do."
It's a sign of support for peace officers from former peace officers who, like the protestors, say a few bad apples shouldn't ruin the bunch.
Bland and the other Barkley Lodge FOP members also talked about the upcoming legislative session in Frankfort. They're throwing their support behind a bill passed in 2002 that was supposed to provide regular pay increases for peace officers.
The bill was never funded, and Bland says low wages are turning away experienced officers less likely to make rookie mistakes. "Experience is golden in corrections, and it's a lot easier for an experienced officer to deal with a situation that could very easily explode and get out of hand." The House and the Senate in Kentucky both convene Tuesday to kick start the 2015 regular session.
National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day was started as a social media movement. It's a day-long event happening across the nation that just encourages people to somehow show support for peace officers. Bland will be at the Kentucky State Penitentiary starting around 2:15.