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May 16, 2006

Police Week Is Coming To Remember The Fallen? How About The Living?

May 15th, 2006
Op/Ed National Columnist
By: Officer Thomas A. Porter D.P.O. MED. RET.
We have spent billions of dollars in America on our fellow Fallen Law Enforcement Officers. We have built buildings to remember our Fallen Officers. We have built Memorials around the country. Money has poured in through the years at alarming rates to let us never forget our Fallen Brother's and Sister's who gave of their life from 'In The Line of Duty'. On 9/11 we lost many Law Enforcement Officers, Firefighters and EMT's. Since 9/11 many have died from exposure to the toxic elements they were exposed to as our Government was telling us the air was safe. Anyone with common sense would know there were toxic chemicals in the air from 9/11 and the death toll continues daily. As sad as it is for the thousands and thousands who have given of their life from 'In The Line of Duty', one must remember, all the money in the world is not going to bring them back from the dead.

While we have over 1 Million Permanently Paralyzed and Disabled Law Enforcement Officers in America living in 'Poverty', we are the one's who continue to suffer daily 1440 minutes of every 24 hour day. We have been thrown out with the bath water and forgotten. There are those who care. Then we can count them on one hand or maybe two hands if we are blessed. We have the National Paralyzed and Disabled Police Officers Fund which does a lot of outreach as the Disabled Police Officers of America Fund also provides help.

In New York City now they had gotten up to 1 Billion Dollars for the 9/11 Memorial. Thankfully it was cut back to 1/2 Billion Dollars. By the time they get it built and completed it will surely go over cost and most likely cost more than 1 Billion Dollars. You know what happens when a New York contractor gets a contract? We will see the cost over runs become more than the cost that was granted to the firm to build anything.

Lets focus on maybe just a 'Memorial Wall' for the Fallen. Like the 'Wall' we have for the 'Viet Nam Memorial Wall', with the names of those who died on 9/11. Lets take the rest of the money saved and give to the 'Living Permanently Paralyzed and Disabled Law Enforcement Officers' who suffer daily the rest of one's life. We may not be seen out in public other than to go to the doctors or hospital and then back to our homes. We may have once been thought about by our fellow Officers we have served with, then do any of them remember us anymore? I hear from all over the country from fellow Permanently Paralyzed and Disabled Law Enforcement Brother's and Sister's. They all feel they are alone. No one cares or wants to do anything for them. What ever is done by the National Paralyzed and Disabled Police Officers Fund or the Disabled Police Officers of America Fund, it can not even begin to take care of all the needs we all have in our journey. It surely can make or break a time in our journey when a real issue of need comes up. It provides for the children also of Fallen and Living Law Enforcement Officers. Still there needs to be more provided in our society for those of us who can no longer provide as we once did, when we were, 'Active Duty Law Enforcement Officers who Served and Protected with Honor'. I agree with Officer Alan J. Odze from New York in his supporting comments. "We have a real crisis in America and one that is not being addressed in our society."

The 'Public Safety Officers Benefits' (PSOB) program through the U.S. Justice Department is a joke. It does nothing to provide the funds for the 'Permanently Paralyzed and Disabled Law Enforcement Officers' it was set up by the U.S. Congress to do. It has failed in only providing jobs for the staff who work in that division of the U.S. Justice Department.

As the 1% Rich in our Society of America get more 'Rich', the 99% of Society are getting more poor. Those who trained and got Criminal Justice Degree's and went to Academy with advance training in one of the 21 Law Enforcement Agencies in America, we have failed them as a Society 100%. When you call your 911 for Law Enforcement you expect someone to show up who is a trained professional to assist you and your family in what ever situation that is happening. How do you feel when one of those Officers from answering the call is 'Hit In The Line of Duty' and left Permanently Paralyzed and Disabled for Life? Do you care as an American Citizen what happens to us? Do you call your Congressperson and U.S. Senator and ask what is being done for us? Do you call your State, County and Local Governments to find out what is being done for us?

With 1.9 Million Law Enforcement Officers in America to Protect and Serve 24/7, it would appear we have become a society that only cares when we show up to take care of what ever crime may be happening at the time. You trust us with your life to save you from what ever needs to be done, so you can go back to sleep in safety. You return to your job knowing the Law has appeared and charged a person with what ever crime they have committed. The fact remains, after the fact your concern leaves after that time and little if nothing is thought about us again after the fact. You might have to go to court and deal with lawyers and the person or persons who committed the crimes against you. You may get a Judge or Jury who give you justice of some kind. Then you may not get any justice from the back room deals made before it ever goes to court. So at that point you are mad at the Justice System. Whey did you ever go the extra step to make sure the person who committed the crimes against you gets the justice they should get from our court system? If you have enough hope in the system you feel it is the right thing to do. You just do not always realize our Justice System and Court System is not perfect. Nor are the politics that come into play. Just look at Vice President Dick Cheney who shot a 'Lawyer Friend' in the face. It was the 'Lawyer Friend' who said he was sorry to Vice President Dick Cheney for shooting him in the face. Does it get any more oxymoron time in our society? Just when you thought you had heard everything.

After years and years of 'Memorial Police Week' each year, on May 15th, we remember our 'Fallen Officers', I continue to never forget the Living. Those of us who are laying in our beds for life. Those of us who live with Chronic Pain for life. Those of us who live with many 'Chronic Illnesses' for life. Years of medical care that never stops as long as we are alive. Grocery shopping on food of $100 dollars a month to buy all the food we are to eat? Living in poverty having to rob from Paul to pay Peter each month. Many Law Enforcement Officers will just give up and die. Many Officers who never hear from another fellow officer ever again in their life, because we are out of the loop. Out of sight and out of mind is standard procedure for the living officer.

If we want to have a real Police Week in America each year, lets have a real one for the 'Living'. We will never forget those who gave of their life from, 'In The Line of Duty'. We surely can do nothing to bring them back. We 'Honor' their 'Service'. Those who knew them and loved them will always remember them. In 100 years from now who will know who any of them were who have passed away? So while those of us who are living with Permanent Catastrophic Injuries, left Paralyzed and Disabled for Life, we are the ones who need the funds and medical care to maintain our lives. We are still alive, we have not gone away, we are just out of sight.

So many of the Florists will have lost business from the flowers ordered for our 'Fallen Officers' year after year. They surely do not have lost business for the funerals of a 'Fallen Officer'. The gasoline that is used to go to yearly 'Memorial' functions in America can be redirected. That gasoline could be used by a 'Living Permanently Paralyzed and Disabled Law Enforcement Officer' who needs to go to the doctors or hospital for test or treatments or weekly physically therapy. We have Rent and Mortgages to pay. We have electric and fuel for heating and lights and medical equipment to run in our homes. We need food to buy.

Nothing is more moving in a picture than to see a 'Candle Light Vigil' during Police Week, as a photo op for the newspapers and organizations to promote more maintaining Memorial locations in the country. The National Chiefs of Police Association has a National Memorial Wall in Florida for over 41 years. We have the much newer National Memorial Wall in Washington D.C., that not only cost a fortune but now has had to raise millions of dollars to build a 'Gift Shop and Museum' for our 'Fallen Officers'. They do nothing in Washington D.C. for the Living Officers who need help. Does anyone see what is missing in this picture? If you do not, then you are not living in our life journey of the over 1 Million Permanently Paralyzed and Disabled Law Enforcement Officers who you never see. If you do see a person in a wheel chair you might only think they are just another disabled person.

Wake Up America because the next time you call 911 for help at anytime, 24/7 you may find out the help you need is not coming in time. You might find out due to cut backs in funding there are not enough Law Enforcement Officers to respond to every call. You might discover 10% of all National Guard serving in the Mid-East War are Law Enforcement Officers. You might find out that Officer responding might become 'Permanently Paralyzed and Disabled responding to your call for help and think we will then be taken care of for life. I will let you in on a secret, we are not taken care of for life. We live on the poverty scale. What we once had we have lost. What we were before is not who we are anymore. In my case as for so many fellow officers I say, "from the neck up it is still my body, from the neck down I do not know who's body I have."

I sincerely hope the tides will turn and the sooner the better. That we will stop from being a country in America that pays Billions of dollars for the 'Fallen Officers' and take that money and give it to the 'Living Officers' who are living with Permanently Paralyzed and Disabled bodies from Catastrophic Injuries for the rest of our lives. We are still a person who has a soul. Even though we are not the person we were before due to so many medical issues to deal with every 1440 minutes of everyday, we still should be cared about and provided for.

I have been to the Wall in Washington D.C. many times in years past for the Viet Nam Fallen Veterans. I have a friend on that wall. I take my hand and rub my fingers across his name and flash backs of our friendship and growing up hit me like it was yesterday he was telling me, "Tom tomorrow I leave for Army Boot Camp." Six weeks after Army Boot Camp and a few days on leave back home and a night out he was gone to Viet Nam. Eight weeks later he was coming home and I was attending his funeral. His life had value. It still has value and I never forget him. There will never be anything I can do to bring Jerry back. He gave his life. He has been in the next part of the journey for many years now. We are in this part of our journey now and very much alive. Maybe not what many would think is a life but that is their problem if others do not think our lives have value for living.

I hope next year we can change the focus of so much honoring our 'Fallen Officers' and have a Police Week that Honors the Living and provide the Funds needed for our survival. "Keep Hope Alive"? I would like to see thousands and thousands march down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C. in their Wheel Chairs, Walkers and their Beds being pushed on rollers down the Avenue. There are plenty of officers living in the D.C. region and surrounding states to make this happen without having 1 Million plus Permanently Paralyzed and Disabled Law Enforcement Officers having to attend. So many of us can not attend due to our medical condition we live with, would not allow such attendance possible. I am sure there are plenty living in the Washington D.C. region that can attend and their friends and family members. We surely need to wake up the Media in the country that have failed 100% from bringing our message and story to the front pages of the Newspapers. TV Stations surely can do stories about the living officers, for those who have had no voice to speak out about their needs, they have to just maintain the substandard of a life of poverty. The media would be putting a name with a face. If we are to be called the 'Richest Country' in the World, then "Show me the money" where these riches are to be found for the 'Living Permanently Paralyzed and Disabled Law Enforcement Officers. To only be asking to have the basics covered in this life time is not asking for more.

The next time you get a letter in the Postal Mail or an E-Mail to donate to an Organization for any 'Fallen Officers Fund', think twice about giving. There are 'Living Law Enforcement Officers' who need your help who need you to give to them. If you know of a Permanently Paralyzed and Disabled Law Enforcement Officer in the community where you live, then offer to help that Officer in what ever way you can. You would be amazed how rewarding it is to help in what ever way you can. Let us remember this May 15th for the Living Police Officers.


Posted by Alan J. Odze