When the term “back the blue” is used there are often naysayers who chime in. They say that backing the blue means a person will turn a blind eye during moments when law enforcement officers step out of line while on the job. They say those who back the blue will side with the blue 10 times out of 10.
Does backing the blue mean that we blindly put our support behind the police? Most certainly not. Just as with any other publicly funded agency, public safety professionals should be examined by the merit of their work. By the integrity they show on the job. By their utmost belief, understanding, enforcement, and adherence to the laws they swore an oath to uphold.
What does backing the blue mean exactly? Depends on whom you ask. At its core backing the blue means showing public support for law enforcement. Public support for those who clock in at the beginning of their shift knowing they may not be there to clock out. Officer Down Memorial Page reports so far in 2019 there has been 29 line-of-duty deaths in the United States: three from automobile crashes, 13 from gunfire, one from inadvertent gunfire, three from heart attacks, one by a motorcycle crash, six from being struck by a vehicle, and two by vehicular assault. One of those 29 deaths happened just down the road in Kittitas County. Deputy Ryan Thompson lost his life March 19 during a traffic stop. He left behind a wife and three children.
Locals know all too well the pain the loss of a law enforcement officer can inflict on a community. Grant County Deputy John Bernard lost his life in a single-vehicle collision while on patrol Jan. 3, 2010. It’s been almost a decade, but cops and deputies who were around when Bernard passed still speak of his death as if it just happened. A memorial bench just outside of the Grant County Sheriff’s Office in Ephrata serves as a reminder of Bernard and his life. The bench also serves as a stark reminder that the passage of time will never erase the sorrow a community experiences when it loses an officer.
Bernard’s widow spoke with a Columbia Basin Herald reporter recently in the wake of Deputy Thompson’s death. Tami Ail’s life changed forever when her husband passed away in January 2010, but one of the things she says helped her through the hard times was the support and love that she was shown by the community. That is what backing the blue is and what backing the blue looks like. Backing the blue means letting the widow of a fallen officer know they are in your thoughts and prayers. Backing the blue means letting officers know you appreciate what they do for us day in and day out. Former U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer said it best, “law enforcement officers are never ‘off duty.’ They are dedicated public servants who are sworn to protect public safety at any time and place that the peace is threatened. They need all the help that they can get.”
— Editorial board