Area law enforcement remember the fallen, honor those who serve during Police Week
SCOTTSBLUFF — Area law enforcement, their families and friends, and the community came together Thursday to highlight National Police Week.
For the third year, the Scottsbluff Police Department hosted a Law Enforcement Memorial Ceremony. During the ceremony, leaders of the Scottsbluff Police Department, Gering Police Department, Scotts Bluff County Sheriff’s and Nebraska State Patrol read a roster of 41 fallen officers killed in the U.S. so far in 2019.
However, Scottsbluff Police Chief Kevin Spencer said the ceremony also serves to recognize the sacrifices that law enforcement officers make in their everyday lives. He choked up during the ceremony as he extended thanks to officers and their families.
“I commend you for all your hard work and sacrifices, the long hours, the worked holidays, the missed birthdays and family events,” he said. “I think often some people don’t recognize how difficult this job is, but I’m honored and proud to be among you.”
A common theme in many ceremonies across the United States this Police Week has focused on highlighting the work that law enforcement do, and community support. Challenges in law enforcement have resulted in fewer people pursuing law enforcement careers or in retention of officers.
“It is not uncommon for citizens to take a critical look at us and what we are doing,” Spencer said. “But, I think we are very fortunate to have the support of most of the community. In fact, I think the majority of people are very supportive of the work that we do. We are a very busy agency. We make a lot of cases and we are trying to provide the best public safety to make Scottsbluff and the area as safe as we possibly can.”
Law enforcement agencies are seeing lower numbers of people pursuing careers, including in Nebraska. A recent story from the Kearney Hub focused on lower numbers of law enforcement officers applying to and attending the Nebraska Law Enforcement Training Center in Grand Island.
Spencer said the lower numbers have affected all agencies, not just the state patrol, as they seek qualified applicants. The NLETC hosts three academies each year, with a limit of 50 students per academy. In the past, the center often had a waiting list for each academy, however, most recent academies have been under-enrolled.
To be willing to serve in law enforcement is a tremendous sacrifice on a personal level, Spencer said.
“I think right now there are just not a lot of people who want to be police officers,” he said.
However, he hopes that things are improving as during a recent testing for candidates, the Scottsbluff Police Department had more than 20 applicants. He praised officers in the department with helping to recruit candidates and the reputation of the police department in the community and state.
Locally, law enforcement agencies are known throughout the state for their cooperativeness, which Spencer noted during the ceremonies and afterward.
“I think it is unique to our area the way we can set aside our organizational pride and come together and get the work that needs to be done to make our community safe,” he said during the ceremony.
He said it helps each agency in getting the work that they need to done, especially with major crimes, when personnel from all agencies are often on scene, helping with nvestigations. Each of them work together.
“This is something that we share the responsibility of public safety,” he said.
During the ceremonies, Spencer also took time to extend gratitude to other public service agencies throughout the area who assist law enforcement, from local emergency management officials to corrections officers. Those men and women often go unrecognized in their support, he said.