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Last week, we lost another police officer in the line of duty, and if we could pass a law to guarantee we will never lose another one, then I would pass it and sign it today. But we know that is not realistic.
The roster of police officers who have died in the line of duty is too long. More than 300 Arkansas police officers have been killed on the job.
In the seven years since I took office, fifteen officers have died in the line of duty. Most recently, Pea Ridge Officer Kevin Apple, the officer whose memorial service I attended on Friday, was run over and killed while attempting an arrest.
Public Safety Secretary Jami Cook points out that seventy percent of our officers who have died in the line of duty since 2015 were killed by assault.
An assault on a police officer is an attack on the rule of law that is essential to civil society. In the past year, the rule of law has been threatened unlike any time since the 1960s. A loud minority has clamored for a reduction in the number – and sometimes the outright elimination – of police. Anyone who has ever been the victim of a violent crime or needed quick assistance after a car wreck knows that’s a bad idea.
In my career as a United States attorney, as a congressman, at DEA and Homeland Security, and now as Governor, I have seen crime and law enforcement up close at all levels. There has never been a time in my career when the work of law enforcement has been more difficult, challenging, and dangerous, but yes, very important. The death of Officer Apple illustrates the dangers police face every time they suit up. In spite of the increasing danger of the work, people still choose to become a police officer, and we are all very grateful.
We understand that for police, there is no such thing as a routine encounter. Every traffic stop, every knock on the door of a house, requires a commitment to serve.
Officer Apple had been in law enforcement for more than twenty years, and he understood the risks. He put his service daily above his own safety.
I hope that every police officer understands that the people of Arkansas value and are grateful for the work of our men and women in blue. Secretary Cook, who was a member of my Task Force to Improve Law Enforcement, is a former police officer who believes that cities, counties, and the state should provide the best for their police officers. She says that we expect much out of officers, so we must provide them with all they need to do everything that we expect. I certainly agree with that assessment.
We are all saddened by the loss of another Arkansas police officer. Arkansans value the rule of law as well as the law enforcement officers who preserve it, and I echo Secretary Cook’s encouragement to every jurisdiction to supply officers the training and tools they need, and to find a way to pay them well for their service. And in addition, when you see an officer, thank him or her for their service.