Dealing with an officer's death
May 9, 2019
Just a word regarding the murder of Deputy Justin DeRosier and the effect this incident has on our protocols in patrol moving forward from here. When I spoke to Sheriff Thurman in Cowlitz County the morning of this tragedy, I offered to assist our neighbors in any way we could. Expectedly, the sheriff was beside himself but handling the situation with grace and calm. The Wahkiakum County Sheriff's Office was available to handle any calls for service that Longview was unable to handle from Coal Creek to County Line Park.
Undersheriff Gary Howell, Sergeant John Mason, and I responded to the Incident Command that day, and we made ourselves available to their command staff. The following day, Emergency Manager Beau Renfro and I continued in the Emergency Operations along with Behind the Badge Foundation at the Cowlitz Justice Center, assisting with logistics planning for the procession and memorial. Beau remained there every day thereafter until the memorial was over, setting up all the car service for the large DeRosier family, for transportation on the days leading up to and including the day of the memorial. There were so many moving parts to the planning and logistics that it took over 40 people working on it every day for nine days straight. We were glad we could be of service.
One of the inescapable facts about the law enforcement profession is the unknown threats that may loom around the corner of any call, or any contact we have with a person who is bent on doing us harm. The basic fact of this tragic incident is that a deputy responded to a normally mundane call: "Disabled vehicle blocking the roadway."
The normal protocol for any agency on a call like this is to send one officer to the scene to help the driver of the disabled vehicle. It is not a call that would heighten our alarm for officer safety as would a suspicious vehicle call for service.
Here in Wahkiakum County, our deputies respond solo to many calls. We have a mandatory two-person response to any domestic violence call or mental health crisis call. I am not sure there is anything that could've been done any differently. Sometimes we just go to a "mundane" type of call where unfortunate, dreadful, and devastating events occur. None of us walking the earth ever really know when our number is up. We can march ahead with more caution, more awareness of potential threats, with extra looks over our shoulder.
But when it comes down to what we in uniform are called to do everyday for our communities, for our families and friends, we answer the calling without hesitation. We continue to fight the good fight, against bad things and bad people that would do you harm. We continue to give a scared child a sticker badge or a teddy bear in times of crisis. We still smile and wave when our community smiles and waves at us. And we still will lay down our lives for those we are sworn to protect and serve. That is what your public servants are about and that is what we dedicated our lives to.
When one of us goes down, our hearts break a little more. With our communities, we come together and honor the fallen, grieve deeply, then continue the calling. With our community's support we know why we do this job. We have renewed spirit, and we keep going.