"When the going gets tough, the tough get going." Oregon State University Coach Dee Andros drummed that slogan into our Beaver football team in the late 1960s. As a marine, he had lived it at the Battle of Iwo Jima during World War II. Last week I had the privilege to attend the public safety bill signing ceremony held at the Lakewood Police Department where that sentiment was brought to life again right before my eyes.
After each legislative session, bills agreed upon by the Senate and House are forwarded to the governor to be signed into law. The Governor's Office scheduled a special signing ceremony at Lakewood to recognize and honor the officers who had lost their lives in the line of duty in last year's horrific shootings. As WASPC president I had served on the task force that Gov. Gregoire convened to review the incidents and suggest needed changes, and was invited to attend. It felt good to be part of the process to bring closure to their families, further recognize the sacrifice of their loved ones through positive changes in our laws, and help protect all who currently serve.
Specific bills signed by the governor were:
Substitute House Bill No. 1679
Relating to access to catastrophic disability medical insurance under plan 2 of the law enforcement officers' and firefighters' retirement system.
House Bill No. 2625
Relating to bail for felony offenses.
Substitute Senate Bill No. 6293
Relating to rendering criminal assistance in the first degree.
Substitute Senate Bill No. 6548
Relating to offenders on parole or probation.
Substitute Senate Bill No. 6673
Relating to bail practices and procedures.
Many members of the families of the slain officers attended the ceremony. Standing behind the Governor as she spoke to them and signed the bills into law, I was struck by their courage and determination to carry on. Parents, spouses, brothers, sisters, children were all present; displaying the selfless duty and honor with which their loved ones had served us. What little we had done paled before them and their sacrifice. We all felt the smallness that comes with confronting death, yet this was something to grab onto for support. A tangible result. In reality's harsh light, our efforts to prevent a "next time" are doomed and we all know it. Other similar tragedies will happen. Maybe, our new laws will postpone if not prevent some of them. Make the repercussions a little less devastating to the surviving families.
Above all, these times have tightened the bond between law enforcement and our communities. A recognition among us all that we really do need to care about each other. Most importantly, all of us need to return to faith in people, not institutions. The government at its best is not in Washington D.C. or Olympia or South Bend. It resides in the hearts and minds of every one of us. Each of us can engage, take an active role or be an advocate for our beliefs. That act always has been and must continue to be the strength that our great nation is built upon.