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OPINION: Let's make every week National Police Week

by JOSH HURWIT/Guest Opinion
| May 15, 2024 1:00 AM

This week is National Police Week, a tradition that began in 1962 when President John F. Kennedy signed a proclamation designating May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day and the week in which that date falls as Police Week. In our Nation’s capital, tens of thousands of law enforcement officers will participate in ceremonies to honor those officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to their communities.

In Idaho, our duty to honor those officers is even more clear this year due to the killing only weeks ago of Ada County Sheriff’s Deputy Tobin Bolter. I hope that the outpouring of sorrow and support expressed throughout Idaho has provided a measure of comfort to our law enforcement community in the wake of this incomprehensible loss. 

I invite all Idahoans to join this groundswell of compassion by attending local National Police Week events. I am confident you will experience not only strong gratitude for those who wear the badge, but also a renewed appreciation for the freedoms that they secure for all of us.

We must never take law enforcement for granted. For over a decade, I have had the privilege of working with the detectives, agents, and officers who make Idaho a safer place. Their work makes it possible to prosecute crimes like drug trafficking, fraud, child exploitation, and gang conspiracies.  

As U.S. Attorney, I work closely with our sheriffs, police chiefs, and all state, tribal, and federal law enforcement leaders in Idaho. I want Idahoans to understand the professionalism and collaborative mentality that is the well-established norm for law enforcement in our great state.

The teamwork I have witnessed among law enforcement is worth celebrating. In Idaho, we have federal, tribal, state, county, and city law enforcement agencies with different but often overlapping jurisdictions and responsibilities.  

Agency leaders are accountable to different constituencies or, in the case of tribal law enforcement, to separate sovereign nations. For this reason, Idaho law enforcement agencies are pulled in several directions.  

Yet, in my experience, they overwhelmingly pull together in the same direction: your safety. By prioritizing coordination, they never lose sight of their common mission to protect the public with integrity and to serve with purpose.  

For example, many people know the Idaho State Police through its work ensuring safety on our highways. But did you know that ISP has been working with my office, the DEA, and Idaho educators to raise awareness in our schools about the dangers of illicit fentanyl, the poisonous drug that killed more than 350 Idahoans last year? 

Or that the FBI — the federal agency charged with national security investigations in Idaho — relies on task force officers from local police departments to strengthen its ability to detect, disrupt, and investigate threats to Idahoans from at home and from abroad? These are just two examples of how different law enforcement agencies work together as one.

Idaho law enforcement’s executive leaders deserve much credit for creating this type of cooperation. But I am confident that Idaho’s sheriffs, police chiefs, elected prosecutors, and other law enforcement leaders will agree with me that it is Idaho’s “line officers” who form the backbone of our collaborative public safety structure.  

These officers are asked to do so much and to put their lives on the line in performing their duties. Be it a patrol officer in a city, a sheriff’s deputy in a rural county, a SWAT officer training on the latest tactics, or a detective investigating a cold case, our officers are busy. They must match expanding responsibilities with heightened professionalism, all while facing the often-hidden but ever-present threat of deadly violence.    

Yet, despite what we ask of them and the well-documented toll it can have on their personal well-being, they do even more than their “day jobs” require: they engage with their communities in ways that are perhaps less visible.  

When they are off duty, they coach little league, they help lead religious congregations, they teach at schools and colleges, they volunteer at foodbanks, and they serve on the boards of civic organizations — to name just some of what I’ve seen firsthand.  

Why is it so common to find Idaho law enforcement officers going above and beyond? It is because, to them, the call to serve is not limited to policing their community while they are in uniform. They are our neighbors and our family, and they recognize that a safe, prosperous, and inclusive community is not something that government, public officials, or even well-trained and well-intentioned police officers can create on their own.  

It takes everyone. Just as solid public safety measures depend on collaboration across multiple agencies, strong communities depend on all of us extending ourselves beyond what we do in our individual jobs and professions.  

So I hope Idahoans will use National Police Week as an opportunity to pay their deepest respect to our fallen officers and to actively thank those who are serving us now during challenging times. But I also hope we realize that while the uniform and the badge help us to identify our law enforcement officers, the roles they have when they are in their street clothes — as parents, teachers, coaches, and volunteers — define them as well.  

In their boundless spirit of service, Idaho’s peace officers show us what community is. Thank them for this gift, and let us all do our best to replicate it — this week and every week.

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Josh Hurwit is United States Attorney for the District of Idaho.