Justin Kirk was crowned a hero last week for saving the life of 18-month-old Alex Ditto.
Kirk administered CPR to the youngster and was able to get Alex to breathe again, more than five minutes after the boy’s lifeless body was pulled from a swimming pool.
With all the praise Kirk deservedly received, there comes one question we all should be asking ourselves: Who will be the next Justin Kirk?
That query comes as violence directed at law enforcement officers has some wondering who would want to be a police officer. The profession that was so revered after 9/11 has now become a target of hate itself. Thirty-five police officers have died by gunfire already this year, including five by a sniper in Dallas just three days after America celebrated its freedom on the Fourth of July.
The impact this “war on police” is having on law enforcement agencies gets scarier as the shootings become almost a daily occurrence.
“It’s as if there’s a divide. It’s us against them. Somehow that’s got to go away,” said Allen County Sheriff Sam Crish, who along with Lima Police Chief Kevin Martin, sat down with The Lima News editorial board last week.
“Fast forward a year from now. If things don’t change, if it continues to go the route it’s going, to me it’s going to be ugly,” Crish added.
The new norm sees many older officers retiring at the earliest date possible and fewer young people lining up to take their place.
“I guess I would use the word tired,” Crish said of the veteran officers. “The amount of years they have, they see where it’s going. During casual conversation they say, ‘I get my time, I’m out of here.’”
Even more surprising, he said, are the many children of police officers — who grew up with the same sense of civic responsibility as their parents — but now are balking at becoming an officer themselves.
“I’ve talked to a lot of kids who at one point had a desire,” Crish said. “They have no desire now. They say, ‘No way would I do his job.’”
As a nation, we cannot let this divide grow. As a community, we can be one of the building blocks that show a nation how to begin to heal. Programs like community policing, the summer police academy and officers working with students in our schools need to be placed on high octane. Police need to get out of their cars more and communicate with the public.
“What makes a good cop today are really the same attributes of what made a good cop years ago,” said Martin. “We need to incorporate some of the old school with new techniques.”
That may be what is needed to make sure more Justin Kirks are wearing blue uniforms and responding to those “dial 911 calls” we tell our children to make at the first sign of trouble.