December 27, 2013 9:48:41 AM
It happened 70 miles to the north, yet the tragic event that played out in Tupelo Monday hit far closer to home than that.
Around 3 p.m. Monday, a pair of Tupelo Police Department officers were gunned down in a shootout after responding to a robbery call in a busy area of town. The brazen robbery and shootout in broad daylight has stunned, saddened and horrified the community.
One officer was killed, the other seriously wounded. The suspects remain at large as the TPD, the Lee County Sheriff's Department, the FBI and the Mississippi Bureau of Investigations continue the search for the suspects.
Although there is no direct connection between what happened in Tupelo and the Golden Triangle, the impact certainly crosses all jurisdictions. It reminds us of the very dangerous work that law enforcement faces each day. Events such as this bear grim evidence that the oft-heard phrase that law enforcement personnel put their lives on the line each day is no exaggeration. An element of very real danger accompanies every call an officer responds to.
In the four days since the shootout, details of precisely what happened have been few. Law enforcement has been very guarded with what information has been provided to the public, which is understandable since the investigation is ongoing. The priority for law enforcement, quite naturally, is on identifying and apprehending those responsible for this horrific crime. Aside from releasing information such as surveillance photos of possible suspects and a description of the car they believe the suspects were driving, little is known about how the tragedy unfolded and how the suspects managed to get away.
Those details, and many others will have to wait until the investigation has been completed and the suspects are brought to justice.
At that point it will be important that law enforcement does a thorough deconstruction of the events of Dec. 23. Were the proper policies and procedures in place at the time of the event? Were those policies and procedures carried out as prescribed? In the wake of the event, are there other policies and/or procedures that should be put into place?
These questions will be asked not to assign blame to any of the law enforcement personnel involved in the tragedy, but to ensure that everything that can be done to prevent similar tragedies will be done. No doubt, our own law enforcement will be paying close attention to what is learned from this event.
For communities everywhere, the tragedy underlines the importance of training. Often, when city budgets are strained, training for our first responders -- police and fire department personnel -- becomes a convenient target for cost-cutting.
Monday's event further emphasizes that this training should be viewed as not just necessary, but vital, to the safety of law enforcement and residents alike.
Certainly, our hearts are with our neighbors in Tupelo. We realize that what happened Monday in Tupelo could happen here, too. We share their grief.
With the images of what happened in Tupelo fresh in our minds, it seems appropriate that when we encounter a law enforcement officer during our daily routine, we take a moment to thank him or her for the service our officers and deputies provide.
Public safety is a dangerous job.
What happened Monday in Tupelo is a sobering reminder.