A week to honor Tacoma area cops, living and dead

“Forever in our hearts. Gone but not forgotten.”

This was the pledge made at the memorial service of Pierce County Sheriff’s Deputy Daniel McCartney. The 34-year-old Navy veteran was fatally shot in January 2018 while responding to a home invasion near Frederickson.

We were happy to see this week that three local leaders made good on that promise. Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor, County Executive Bruce Dammeier and County Council Chair Doug Richardson traveled to Washington D.C. in honor of Police Week and stood among the 50,000 plus gathered near the National Mall on Wednesday.

Each spring the names of fallen officers are added to the National Law Enforcement Memorial Wall. McCartney and Kent Police Officer Diego Moreno were among the 142 names added this year. McCartney and Moreno join the 21,000 names carved into the blue-gray marble, each representing a federal, state or local officer who made the ultimate sacrifice.

In 1962 President John F. Kennedy proclaimed May 15 as Peace Officers’ Memorial Day; since then, this week is designated as a time to honor the brave men and women who serve in law enforcement

Pastor told a reporter that the memorial wall is a place of pilgrimage. “Every time I am in Washington D.C. I come here. I visit the names on the wall — people that I know, people that I have served with, people that I have given badges to and were lost carrying that badge.”

Listed among those names are “The Lakewood Four” — Sgt. Mark Renninger and Officers Tina Griswold, Ronald Owens and Greg Richards — ambushed by a gunman while drinking coffee together at the start of a shift, 10 years ago this November.

No doubt this year’s National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service, with a keynote address by President Trump, was especially somber for the local attendees, given that McCartney’s widow and three young sons were present.

Earlier in the week, the McCartney family greeted the Police Unity Tour cyclists. Several were Pierce County deputies who pedaled from New York to D.C. to raise money for upkeep of the memorial wall.

That wall is a worthy cause, but it’s hardly justice. The man who killed McCartney, Frank William Pawul, 33, pleaded guilty last August to aggravated murder. He was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole, a punishment that pales in comparison to what Cierra McCartney and her children must endure.

At a time when gun ownership is high and mental health and substance abuse treatment is underfunded, police work is especially dangerous. Ordinary traffic stops or domestic abuse calls, like the one Tacoma Police Officer Jake Guttierez responded to in 2016, can quickly turn deadly. Gutierrez was added to the national wall two years ago.

Police Week sends a message to law enforcement, one it doesn’t hear often enough: Thank you.

We can’t pretend relations between law enforcement and the community haven’t been strained. But we can say policies are being enacted to help close the divide.

The first bill Gov. Jay Inslee signed this past legislative session centered on use-of-force accountability and increased police training requirements. It included minor revisions to a ballot initiative approved by voters last fall.

Such measures raise the public’s trust of law enforcement, as do frequent reminders of the contributions made by these public servants. Like the military, law enforcement officers willingly put themselves in the line of fire, and their families often pay the steepest price.

As Trump said this week: “When danger came, when darkness fell, when destruction loomed, they did not flinch. They were not afraid. They did not falter.”

Next time you see a police officer — even if he or she is standing at your driver’s side window asking for license and registration — take a moment to say thanks.