The risks when police pledge to protect and serve

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) — Police officers know the risks of their duty. And while the recent killing of a Norfolk officer highlights those risks and the fear attached, statistics show there have been fewer cop killings in recent years.

Norfolk police officer Brian Jones lost his life while trying to catch a man who shot and killed rising high school senior Mark Rodriguez Friday night. The suspect, James Andrew Brown, then got into a fight with another police officer, who shot and killed Brown.

Officer Jones has been on the mind and hearts of many since his tragic passing.

“He’s got three young children, a wife, he’s a good man,” said Mike McKenna. “I worked with him for about three years, and I just can’t believe it happened.”

On Monday, McKenna, a representative for the International Brotherhood of Police Officers Union, talked with WAVY.com about some of the things he’s faced during his 35 years with Norfolk Police.

“The dangers of the job were different then than they are now,” he said. “We didn’t face a lot of gunfire then. It was knives, sticks, stones. We would actually stand in front of a mirror and say ‘I’m going to come home no matter what happens. I’m going to come home’.”

Inevitably, that didn’t always happen. In fact, the Norfolk Police Department has the highest rate of fallen officers in Hampton Roads at 39. Most others local departments were only in the single digits.

But across the county, there has been a decrease in the number of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty last year. The FBI reports that decrease at 44 percent.

The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund cites an average of one death among their ranks every 58 hours or 150 per year for the last 10 years. So the fact that there were 100 law enforcement officers killed in 2013 is actually a downward trend.

But each time a loss has been experienced, that pain is still just as great, and it’s shared.

“Anytime anything catastrophic like this happens, the whole region grieves,” said Cpl. Mary Shackelford with the Hampton Police Division. “We’re all a family, no matter where you are, here, across the water, or across the country. Anyone who wears this uniforms, puts on this badge, we’re a family.”

Hampton Police posted a poignant message online about their fallen brother in Norfolk, reminding people that they were looking at the face of a hero when they see Officer Jones’ picture.

The Officer Down Memorial Page has a quote that says, “When a police officer is killed, it’s not an agency that loses an officer, it’s an entire nation.”

That’s true every time.

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