Heroes | Behind the Badge
By: Danielle Koleniak
National Police Week is a time for police officers and citizens nationwide to show their respects for officers killed in the line of duty. The statistics can be difficult to grasp. So far this year, 42 law enforcement officers have lost their lives in the United States; 12 from gunfire, 18 from auto accidents, and 12 from other causes, mostly heart attacks. While the week is dedicated to those officers who have died in the line of duty, it’s also a moment to celebrate the difference that law enforcement makes in communities across the United States, and right here in Lee County. In our parish, we have three brave men who currently serve our community in law enforcement. In a raw and honest interview, Detective Mike Walsh (FMPD), Sergeant Jason Fields (FMPD), and Lieutenant Angelo Vaughn (LCSO) open up about what it’s really like working in law enforcement today, how it’s changed, and what this week means to them.DOWNLOAD THE BULLETIN
Danielle Koleniak: What does National Police Week mean to each of you?
Det. Mike Walsh, FMPD: It’s a week where we can appreciate what the police force means to the country and the sacrifice the men and women make on a daily basis. Also, to remember and honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice– our brothers and sisters.
Sgt. Jason Fields, FMPD: To me, it’s a time to reflect and honor those who were killed in the line of duty while protecting our cities.
Lt. Angelo Vaughn, LCSO: It means a lot to me and the agency as a whole. The men and women who died are our heroes. They are also the reason we have our freedom today. We must have law enforcement in our society, otherwise you have chaos.
DK: How has the law enforcement field changed over the years?
Sgt. Fields: I think the overall respect towards authority has declined. We’re also expected to show more restraint. There is very little responsibility taken by those who commit the bad acts. The job has also become a social service type work, yet, we also have to keep order and control out on the streets. As a result, ambushes are at an all-time high. There’s little regard for the lives of the officers and their families. I don’t know of any officers who wake up every day and say, ‘I’m going to hurt someone today.’ Statistically, very few officers engage in force and shootings. I think that speaks volumes in the restraint and communication skills they have and how they handle themselves.
Lt. Vaughn: I’ve seen a decline of morality in society and the lack of respect for law enforcement and the fellow man. We’ve seen that recently throughout America…certain pockets of society have become fearless. The root of it may be drugs, the economy, what’s on the television, and the sensationalism of violence in the movies. We, as law enforcement officers, are not getting up saying, ‘let’s see how many people we can shoot, beat up, and whose civil rights we can violate.’ That’s not the case. Our job is to protect the people and property of Lee County, Florida. That’s what we’re supposed to do as our career.
DK: How does being Catholic men in law enforcement affect or come into play with what you face every day?
Sgt. Fields: You can clearly see the good in people. On the opposite side of the spectrum…how horribly people can treat each other. You see the highs and lows with everything in between. I try to be a voice of reason for people who can be swayed either way, and try to push them to do the right thing. I try to teach people to treat others how they would like to be treated while projecting that to them. We’re not just men who carry a badge and a gun and push people around.
Det. Walsh: I’m a violent crimes detective, so I see a lot of bad things on a daily basis. At times, you see the worst in people and, at times, you have to council them.
Lt. Vaughn: Being a Catholic, which is something I’m so proud of, the one thing I do every day when I get into my patrol car is say a quick prayer, make the sign of the cross, and look at my Saint Michael card on my dashboard. I become at peace and I’m ready to go. That’s how my faith plays into what I do for a living.
DK: Does that relieve any fears?
Lt. Vaughn: I feel protected, but I would be lying if I said it makes me live without fear. It’s OK to have fear as long as it doesn’t show itself out on the streets. You have to keep it within yourself.
DK: How do you want those in the community to see ‘National Police Week’?
Lt. Vaughn: We want them to see that clearly, the good outweighs the evil. People come up to us and thank us for our service. What I want to see is simply what we are already seeing, and it’s that society, as a whole, is good. We have good people out there! Are there certain pockets of society that are going to cross that line? Yes, but what we’re seeing is an appreciation for law enforcement. It’s a tough job. We didn’t sign up for this for the money or glory.
Sgt Fields: To echo what Lt. Vaughn stated—there is more good than bad out in the community, but unfortunately what makes the news mostly portrays law enforcement in the negative light. Absolutely, there are bad apples, but the vast majority of police officers, deputies, correctional officers, and so-forth, wake up in the morning wanting to do the right thing. The good is out there. I would like to see more of it portrayed out to the public. The police are the good guys. When push comes to shove, the people are going to be calling us in a panic and we’ll be right there for them, even if we are afraid.
Det. Walsh: There’s been a lot of negative press about police recently, but the majority of law enforcement are good, hardworking people who do the right thing. I’d like to read an article about that! Haha
Lt. Vaughn: We are so grateful for the parish community’s support and ask for their continued support and prayers. We can’t do our jobs effectively without the community’s support. Thank you to all the parishioners who support us. We’re thankful to Father Bob and all our priests for being the tip of the spear as the driving force.