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Law enforcement is a vital part of our community

Over the past several days there have been demonstrations and calls in other parts of our nation to defund the police. Law enforcement is a vital part of our community.
Our police answer numerous and varied calls. Often they are called to do more than investigate crimes. They defuse domestic situations, respond to people in emotional distress, mediate disputes between landlords and tenants, enforce city ordinances, and respond to fender-benders.
Police respond as they are trained — if you bring a police officer to a tense or violent situation, you will get a police officer’s response.
When we look at the nature of calls law enforcement officers must respond to, there are some calls and situations that would be better left to people with different kinds of expertise, such as social workers or conflict resolution specialists.
Two of the most fraught situations for police involve responding to reports of domestic violence and people who are emotionally disturbed. Either of these situations can become violent in a matter of minutes if the situation is not defused.
Police are asked to perform other functions that we don’t always need a law enforcement response for — such as parking violations, missing persons reports, or abandoned cars.
But, in a small community such as ours, this is what police officers do. Who else is there to do it?
The police often step into emotionally supercharged and stressful situations. Often only after a motor vehicle accident, home break-in, act of vandalism, medical emergency or family dispute plunges someone into an emotional tailspin will they have a conversation with a law enforcement officer.
This is the basic nature of police work and it’s what makes police-community relations so fragile, so easily crumpled, and yet, so important to foster. In Carter County and Elizabethton, we are fortunate so many local police officers handle these delicate situations with composure and work diligently to improve the relationship between public and police.
There are plenty of misconceptions about why police officers make the decisions they do. Some of those questions are wholly justified. But it’s also easy to pick apart a law enforcement officer’s response to what might seem like a routine traffic stop when you’ve never walked a mile in their shoes. The closest most of us have come to experiencing police work is watching “Law & Order,” “COPS” or the nightly news from the couch in our living room.
It’s human nature to criticize rocky personal interactions. These days, such venting usually occurs in the public sphere on social media. At a time when it’s common for police-encounters-gone-wrong to make public splashes, it’s also important to recognize not only that police serve a vital role in keeping our communities safe, but also that most police officers display sensitivity, deep respect and keen human insight when dealing with people in distress.
We go on record as saying we appreciate our local police and the vital role they play in keeping our community safe. They deserve a word of praise from all of us and our support.