Sometimes scanning the news can be a real drag. Trauma, death and scandal seem to be the only competitors for the front page, leaving us to continually wonder why the big news is usually bad news.
It is a disturbing question that may say less about the media and more about us, the media consumers.
That fact is especially true if your daily bread is criminal justice. Incidents involving the police or the actions of specific officers are the type of news stories that usually land a spot on the front page and fester there for days.
So when three stories popped up in last week’s paper – pieces which highlighted some damn fine police work - I decided to seize the opportunity and spotlight a little good news.
The first such story involves a man fleeing on foot from Tacoma police after a suspected DUI hit and run. The brief article was relegated to a small tab on the inside pages of the Trib (8/2), further proof that a positive outcome makes for dull news.
As officers converged on the running suspect “he yelled that he had a gun,” according to police spokesman Officer Mark Fulghum. Try to picture the challenge facing the cops – they would need to run with firearms in hand and search a dimly lit area for a hidden man who could be targeting them with a gun at any moment. Yet the officers continued searching and eventually found and arrested the man. That outcome is worth recognition.
The second report (printed that same day) described officers being fired on in Auburn. A man armed with a shotgun ambushed two police officers engaged in an unrelated traffic stop.
The suspect allegedly stepped out of the bushes and shot the passenger side of one officer’s car before fleeing back into the brush. While police searched for him, the suspect again stepped out of hiding and shot the driver’s door of a passing patrol car. The officer fired only one shot in response due to the proximity of residences. That subject was also taken into custody without injury.
Lastly, there was a Trib story on a very timely rescue by a police officer in Fresno, CA. Deputy David Rippe of the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office was engaged in a search and rescue operation for a lost hiker when his team located the man, who was dangling from a precipice 300 feet above.
Deputy Rippe sensed that the man could fall at any moment, and so he scrambled up the 70 degree slope and strapped them both into the rock wall (for those of us unused to such ascents, there’s only one word to describe a 70 degree slope: vertical). Rippe risked his life and saved a life.
To those officers involved in all three events, I say well done.
Call me shameless, but it feels good to tout the restraint, professionalism and heroism of police officers. It is also a reminder that the handful of cops who betray the badge and wind up on the front page are miniscule in number. The rest simply show up every day (and every night), ready to serve and protect.