Published 12:00 am Friday, May 19, 2000

Leonard Gray / L’Observateur / May 19, 2000

Long time readers of my columns will recognize this topic – law enforcement and my support of those who serve and protect.

On Wednesday, a memorial service was held in Hahnville to honor those across Louisiana who died in the line of duty last year, including Gramercy’s police chief, Michael Kahl.

Also, displayed for the first time were three display cases, each with a photograph of a law enforcement officer in St. Charles Parish’s history whodied doing their job, including Sheriff Lewis Ory, who was murdered by a fugitive in 1903, the only St. Charles Parish sheriff who died on the job. Thatman was then pursued by an angry posse, who riddled him with bullets.

Not long ago, a badge turned up in a Luling yard which may or may not have been Ory’s. It’s a potential scrap of history will certainly end up in theplanned parish museum.

The three display cases also include with the photographs a short telling of their stories and a Supreme Sacrifice medal from the Fraternal Order of Police.

As Sheriff Greg Champagne told the memorial service, those outside law enforcement cannot truly understand the demands and stresses of that profession. If they stay straight in their duty, as the vast majority do, thepressures can be enormous.

It sounds almost cliche to say whenever they leave for work, they literally don’t know if they’ll come home, but it’s a fact. It’s almost impossible toimagine what that feels like unless one has lived it.

It’s hard to imagine what it feels like to walk into a potentially explosive situation and keep your cool enough when faced with unexpected circumstances and remember your training and keep in mind every legal ramification.

And although it rarely confronts an officer, it’s supremely hard to place oneself in the shoes of an officer who has to pull the trigger to protect himself or someone else. These life-and-death decisions, made in a split-instant, rarely face the average citizen.

It could happen at a domestic disturbance, in response to a burglary call, or at any traffic stop. Remember that next time, when you’re pulled over forspeeding, that as inconvienced as you may feel, he or she just wants to stay alive and get home. However, while he’s on duty, he’s protecting not onlyhimself, but you and everyone around you.

You have to respect that.

Leonard Gray is a reporter for L’Observateur

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