Other Opinion: Senseless act shows dangers officers face everyday
If we can work together to acknowledge and address the problem of domestic violence, there will be fewer incidents that require officers to put their lives on the line.
Over the years, our reporters have often asked law enforcement officers what kind of calls they dread the most and the response is the same: domestic disturbances.
The officers go into situations where they don’t have a full picture of what is taking place – if there are weapons involved, how dangerous the situation actually is, how out of control the tempers have flared, how many people are involved and a whole raft of other questions.
The officers are simply doing their duty — to serve and protect — but end up getting shot, wounded or killed.
And that kind of violence can happen in communities of any size, time or location, including in the tiny Pope County town of Cyrus, which has a population of about 300.
On April 15, two deputies and one police officer responded to a domestic assault in Cyrus. Deputy Josh Owen died in an exchange of gunfire with a suspect, leaving behind a wife and son, and the two other law enforcement officers were injured.
The Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association posted on Facebook, “This killing is a senseless act of violence and hate towards police officers who put everything on the line to serve and protect our communities. It shows the dangers of the job that police do every day, and how what could be considered a ‘normal’ day could turn into their last day.”
A senseless act of violence.
It’s a tragic description that happens all too often. At the root of it is domestic abuse — a growing problem that some turn a blind eye to when they should be realizing how many lives are lost or shattered because of it.
Last October during National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Alexandria Police Sgt. Tony Kuhnau, who also serves as president of United Communities Advocating Non-Violence Committee, wrote a letter to the editor that was blunt but true.
“Despite its severe ramifications and consequences, most of us continue to ignore it and live our lives as if it didn’t exist,” Kuhnau said in his letter. “Just look at what is happening in our community every day. In 2021: The Alexandria Police Department responded to 225 calls for assistance relative to domestic violence. The Douglas County Sheriff’s Department received 157 calls for assistance for the same issues. Someplace Safe, a service organization specifically serving the domestic violence issue, received 1,110 calls and requests related to domestic and family violence.
“That‘s an average of 4.2 calls for help every day,” Kuhnau added. “And this isn’t the total picture – domestic violence is one of the most persistently under-reported crimes. It’s time for more of us to address this issue, to learn what is going on around us and take the necessary steps to reduce this epidemic.”
If our community, our region, our state can work together to acknowledge and address the problem of domestic violence, there will be fewer incidents that require officers to put their lives on the line. Let’s learn something from the senseless act of violence that ended the life of 44-year-old Deputy Josh Owen much too soon.