We frequently hear how the police serve and protect us. We hear about sacrifice and honor and putting lives on the line.
For most of us on most days, we think of police in far more mundane contexts: getting a ticket for talking on our cellphones while driving or passing by them as they direct traffic around an accident.
Then there are days like Wednesday and Thursday. These are the days that remind us of just how true all those oft-said statements can be. It is too easy to forget just how dangerous the job of a police officer can be, and how vital it is that it is done well. Officers face the threat of injury and death and they do it because it is their job.
On Thursday afternoon, Anne Arundel County officers arrested a man suspected of shooting two detectives Wednesday night, ending a daylong search across parts of Pasadena and Glen Burnie. Police were diligent, professional and determined.
Detective Scott Ballard tried to stop a motorist for questioning in connection with the death of a man in Glen Burnie on Wednesday. The man shot Ballard without talking to him and then drove away. Detective Ian Preece chased the man into the Stoney Beach neighborhood, where he was shot.
Both detectives are expected to recover.
These officers knew the risks inherent in their work. They went to work Wednesday knowing that what they do is dangerous. They had confidence in their training, skills and each other.
Anyone who shoots another person is a threat. But anyone who shoots an armed police officer is a much greater danger. They’ve assessed the risks involved in shooting at someone trained to shoot back and decided that’s a bet they’re willing to make.
Police were wise to advise most of the community to stay indoors during the search.
News organizations like ours are often the first to question the police. There has been a surge of police violence in some parts of the country, especially involving people of color. Yet, our experience in Anne Arundel County has been that the vast majority of police officers are hard-working, fair-minded men and women.
In the rare cases where police have fallen short of the standards set by their profession and their communities, this department has dealt with them fairly and effectively.
Through the day in and day out, we forget these men and women are doing things most of us would not:
Stop a car when the driver is possibly armed and desperate.
Chase after a man who just shot your partner.
Serve a protective order on someone deemed too unbalanced to have guns.
Run into a building where a gunman has killed five people and is still inside, waiting.
Anne Arundel County is lucky to have a well-trained, experienced and capably led police force. It is stretched too thin, frequently asked to do too many things.
For the community, and for ourselves, we say thank you to Ballard and Preece, to police Chief Tim Altomare and to all the others who conducted the search for the gunman or went about their jobs in other parts of the county.
We have seen before the courage and dedication these officers bring to the job.
We witnessed it again this week.