OPINION | This article contains political commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
A charity event organized to raise money for a fallen police officer’s family and to honor his memory has been canceled. Thousands of dollars in event support are being returned to donors. Celebrities slated to perform and speak this Sunday have had to alter their schedules. Footballs will remain unsigned by NFL team members. Jerseys emblazoned with the hero’s name will go unworn.
The list of eleventh-hour changes and cancellations is long. And the reason behind it all is…well…deplorable.
Ventura County Sheriff’s Deputy Ron Helus was killed while responding to the mass shooting at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, California last November. The Blue Bowl, a flag football game, would have raised money for his family.
Would have…except, instead, Thousand Oaks Police Chief Tim Hagel is uncomfortable in Trump territory. He persuaded organizers to withdraw support for the event after he was unable to strong-arm Mike Randall, Vice President of the Fallen Officers Foundation, into removing all Republicans from the roster. Never mind that the event was bipartisan – Democrats were invited, too.
Randall refused to capitulate. Good on him. Hagel made good on his threat. And I am absolutely horrified.
As a former reporter covering the police beat for a local daily paper, I had the privilege of getting to know many city, county and state law enforcement officers. They struck me as a great bunch of community-minded heroes. I was especially moved by how they gathered together to form a different kind of community around a fallen comrade’s young wife, Emily… and around Cody, the baby boy who was born five months after his father died.
Officers working with various law enforcement agencies came from miles around to attend Indiana State Police Trooper Jason Beal’s funeral services in January 2000. But the law enforcement community didn’t stop caring afterward. They took care of that family’s practical needs for years; in fact, I seem to recall that they even built a playground set for their buddy’s son, complete with an awesome tunnel slide. That child graduated from high school this year – and about a dozen State Troopers walked behind him at senior night activities.
When I read about that, I was touched – but not surprised. Cops take care of their own, so I always imagined that Beal’s fellow officers would continue to check in on his family from time to time. What I cannot fathom is the idea that they would fail to do so, or that the Indiana Concerns of Police Survivors group would have withheld assistance to Beal’s widow and baby boy, over politics.
That’s just not the law enforcement way.