National Police Week honors the heroes who give everything to serve Alaska

National Police Week honors the heroes who give everything to serve Alaska


National Police Week honors the heroes who give everything to serve Alaska

Jake Metcalfe

Pictured: Anchorage Fire Department engineer Lex Patten, a member of the AFD honor guard, rings a bell for each member of law enforcement who has been killed in the line of duty in Alaska, during the National Police Memorial Day ceremony at the Alaska state crime lab on Friday, May 8, 2015. 67 federal, state and local law enforcement officers who were killed in the line of duty in Alaska have their names enshrined on a memorial outside the crime lab. Loren Holmes / ADN

This week is National Police Week, a time to honor those that serve and protect all of us. On May 13 in Washington, D.C., police officers killed in the line of duty were honored in a special candlelight vigil at the National Law Enforcement Memorial. Tragically, for the second consecutive year, Alaska is adding names of fallen heroes to the memorial wall.

Last year, Alaska State Troopers Scott Johnson and Gabe Rich went to Tanana to arrest a suspected drunk driver who had pointed a shotgun at a Village Public Safety Officer. Johnson and Rich went to the suspect’s house to arrest him. They ended up in a struggle with the suspect and fell to the ground. Witnesses say the man’s son then appeared and shot and killed Johnson and Rich. Johnson and Rich lost their lives serving and making us all safe. They are heroes.

Two years ago, we lost three other heroes. Trooper Tage Toll and Department of Public Safety pilot Mel Nading perished in a line-of-duty helicopter accident, saving a stranded and injured Alaskan. Later that year, Thomas Madole, a Manokotak VPSO, working by himself as do most VPSOs, was shot and killed responding to a “suicidal person” call.

These Alaskan heroes went to work each day doing their job — to make us safe. They leave behind spouses, children, family, fellow workers and communities that will never get over their loss. These heroic Alaska public servants, and their families, made the ultimate sacrifice for us. We, and they, need to recognize and honor them every year.

Heroes should never die in vain. That is why National Police Week also honors, recognizes and supports our current public safety employees. To paraphrase former U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, government, as an employer, has a special duty to the men and women it hires to serve and protect our citizens and to enforce our laws. If government asks police officers to protect us from danger, government needs to support police officers. Police officers need to be well-trained, well-equipped and well-paid. They need to know if they are injured, we will nurse them back to health, and that if they are killed we will comfort and assist their families.

Jake Metcalfe is executive director of the Public Safety Employees Association/AFSCME Local 803, an Alaska labor organization representing approximately 800 employees statewide.