Commentary: Families of law enforcement officers live with this fear daily

Local News

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — It’s become something of a cliche when it comes to law enforcement officers and the way they make their living. You’ve heard the line — “They just want to go home to their families too.”

Of course they want to go home to their families, and even on their bad days, like you and me, they do. 

But not on the worst of their worst days. 

Their worst days remind the rest of us what makes police officers and sheriff’s deputies different from almost everyone else. 

When a bad guy with a gun — or a confused guy with a gun, an impaired guy, whatever — starts taking out his frustrations, someone invaribly gets hurt. And sometimes it’s a good guy with a gun.

A good guy like the Kern County Sheriff’s Deputy Phillip Campas, who went down Sunday afternoon in Wasco, answering that call. 

A man holed up in a house on 1st Street had taken hostages, and the Kern County Sheriff’s Department  — Wasco’s contracted police agency — took up positions. Resolve the standoff peacefully, if possible, but in any case, resolve the standoff. They did — at a cost. A very high cost.

We have only a few details — we expect to get more from Sheriff Donny Youngblood later this morning. But we know this much — at least one Sheriff’s deputy didn’t go home to his family last night.

These are tough times to be in law enforcement. Tougher times than many of us can remember. Political strife, an ongoing civil rights debate  — the past 16 months in particular have been difficult, especially for cops.

But this is one aspect of law enforcement work that has never diminished as a threat.  From Deputy Will Tibbet, killed by gunfire in the line of duty on these streets 108 years ago, to Deputy Rick McHale, killed 32 years ago, to Deputy Phillip Campas, killed Sunday, the potential for violence, deadly violence, has always been there. 

The rest of us might not think much about it, but the families of law enforcement officers  — they think about it — a lot. And on this sobering morning we are all reminded why.

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