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Honoring the heart behind the badge

Jan. 7, 2019

A Minnesota State Patrol Academy graduate’s young son pins on her badge at graduation.
​A Minnesota State Patrol Academy graduate’s young son pins on her badge at graduation. National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day is Wednesday, Jan. 9.

We know that law enforcement officers put their lives on the line for us every day. Sometimes it’s dealing with an active shooter situation. Sometimes it’s helping a stranded motorist change a tire on the side of a busy freeway. Simply put, policing is a dangerous job.

And it seems to be getting more dangerous. In 2018, law enforcement deaths in the US increased by 12 percent over the year before. Specifically, a total of 144 federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial officers died on the job last year in the US.

Those who dedicate their lives to law enforcement – including the 11,000 who do so right here in Minnesota – know what they’re getting into. But accepting those risks doesn’t stop them from being human. Take, for example, the story of the law enforcement officers who rescued a 5-year-old child from a known child pornographer who had killed the child’s babysitter by setting her trailer on fire.

Bemidji Police Detective Michelle Leffelman was approached at the scene of the arson by the frantic mother of the missing 5-year-old. Leffelman, also the mother of a 5-year-old, wondered aloud what she would expect law enforcement to do for her in the same situation. State Deputy Fire Marshal Kevin Mahle described the case as an emotional roller coaster. BCA Special Agent Paul Ghirardi agreed: “I can’t imagine what the family was going through.”

But being in law enforcement means you keep going despite the worries and doubts. Officers on the case rejoiced when the little girl was found alive. More than one cried. The case is a good reminder that there’s a heart behind that badge on every law enforcement officer you meet.

Wednesday, Jan. 9, is National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day. You may not interact with law enforcement officers on a daily basis (and one of the reasons is that they’re helping reduce crime in your community). But if you encounter one on Wednesday – or any day, really – be sure to thank them for their service. It will help make a tough, dangerous job just a little bit easier.