Provo Police Chief Rich Ferguson told reporters Sunday he is “furious.”
He has every reason to be.
Indeed, that is a feeling no doubt shared by many law-abiding Utahns after the senseless killing Saturday of police officer Joseph Shinners, a young father who, according to those who knew him best, was someone who entered policing for the right reasons and who had a gift for combining the attributes of toughness and compassion.
Ferguson said Shinners was an example of “the nobility of policing.” That is an apt description of the profession that is charged with protecting democracy by enforcing the laws enacted by elected officials and guarding the safety of the public, which relies on sworn officers to keep the peace and maintain order.
Furious, indeed. No one has a right to rob the community of someone performing such a duty. No petty desire to escape punishment for a crime; no grievance or grudge can equal the cost.
Shinners, only 29 years old, leaves behind a wife and a 1-year-old son who now will grow up only hearing stories of his hero father. The fallout from such crimes cannot be isolated. It spreads and permeates with the pangs of grief and life-altering loss.
The only positive outcome would be a resolve by the public to feel a renewed sense of gratitude to police officers who risk their lives each day, struggling with the knowledge that their work sometimes requires split-second life-or-death judgments, and that some criminals view them as targets.
Utah has seen too many of this noble profession die lately. Shinners was the second such death since late November, when South Salt Lake police officer David Romrell died after being hit by a car driven by a burglary suspect, who subsequently was killed by other officers.
Each such tragedy is an affront to all who live in the state. Or, as Orem Police Chief Gary Giles so eloquently put it on Sunday:
"Officer Shinners represents every one of us. He represents every one of us who enjoy peace, who enjoy freedom. Today a little bit of that freedom has been eroded away."
Not long ago, a portion of the national mood was focused on police abuses, usually associated with racism. In many of the cases receiving national attention, anger was justified, and badly needed reforms were exposed. But those problems reside far from the deaths of Shinners and Romrell, and in no instance should they justify violence against any officer.
According to the National Law Enforcers Memorial Fund, 144 officers died in the line of duty nationwide in 2018, a 12 percent increase over the 129 who died in 2017. Fourteen of those deaths happened while an officer was trying to make an arrest.
That appears to have been the case with Shinners, as well.1 comment on this story
As of the end of last year, 21,541 names were inscribed on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, representing officers killed in the line of duty since 1791. Now, sadly, another name will be added from Utah.
Fury and anger are natural feelings. But they must be tempered with gratitude and a desire to honor Shinners and all fallen officers through gratitude and respect.
Correction: A previous version incorrectly stated fallen Utah officer David Romrell worked for Salt Lake City. He was a part of the South Salt Lake Police Department.