Officers deserve better than they receive

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 29, 2005

I had the good fortune last week to attend the closing night banquet of the Virginia Sheriff’s Association annual convention in Norfolk. I was there for the installation of Suffolk Sheriff Raleigh Isaacs as the VSA’s president, which is quite an accomplishment and needed to be reported by the local newspaper.

I’ll admit, I wasn’t really thrilled about going, with a 40-page special section on deadline (It’s in today’s papers), and lots of other things to do, but I was glad I went. Not just for Isaacs’ accolades, or even the appearance and remarks by Gov. Mark Warner, who should be our next president.

The highlight of the evening was hearing about a couple special awards that were presented to deputy sheriffs.

Email newsletter signup

The first was for a Tazewell County deputy who responded to a 911 call.

He went to a home about a block from his own where he walked in on a domestic dispute. He apparently separated the couple and took the wife out to his patrol car to speak to her about what was going on.

The husband, meanwhile, went out the back of the house where his pickup truck was, got in it and drove around the house to the front, running over and killing the family dog in the process.

The deputy got out of the vehicle and the husband gunned the engine and ran the truck toward him. The back door of the squad car was open and he dove in, but the truck slammed into the door, closing it on his legs, crushing them.

The husbanded back the truck up and rammed the car again. He then exited the truck and began walking around the back of the squad car toward where his wife was. The deputy managed somehow to pull his revolver and fire through the rear windshield, hitting the man in the chest.

But he kept going. The deputy managed to get off a couple more rounds, finally dropping the suspect.

The deputy spent months in rehabilitation and had only recently returned to work.

In the other incident, a Stafford County deputy heard a call come over about shots being fired at a residence.

A drunken man, armed with an Uzi assault weapon, was on his way to the county jail to personally free his son, who had been arrested.

The deputy spotted the suspect’s vehicle pulling up in front of the jail, parked his car and positioned himself about 50 yards away. When the suspect got out of the truck, the deputy yelled for him to get back in the truck.

Instead, he wheeled around and raised his Uzi. The deputy remained cool and got off a shot that hit the suspect in the shoulder, after which he was subdued.

Warner had touted the sheriffs during his remarks for working with him to lobby for the controversial budget agreement that marked the 2004 General Assembly session, which made pay raises possible so &uot;deputies wouldn’t have to live on food stamps.&uot;

I can’t help but think there is something seriously warped about a society that would let that happen. We’ve seen in the wake of Hurricane Katrina how important law and order is and those responsible for enforcing it deserve better than we are providing.

Situations like those described earlier are not uncommon for officers. While it’s rare that they wind up killed or wounded, they easily could be were it not for their training and professionalism.

They deserve the best we can afford to give them and their needs should be placed ahead of most others.

Andy Prutsok is editor and publisher of the News-Herald. He can be reached at 934-9611 or at