Blue Line

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Continuing to serve: Honouring our first responders during crisis

April 6, 2020  By Tom Wetzel

The current health scare involving COVID-19 is going to show the best and worst of humankind. On one end we will see people sharing what they have with others in need as well as remotely supporting local businesses as much as they reasonably can. On the other side, we will see hoarding at the expense of others and extreme paranoia.

However, in my opinion there is one group that will shine during this crisis and it will be our public safety forces. You will see the best they have to offer through preparedness, professionalism, courage and a deep commitment to the health and welfare of the communities they serve. They will don their gear while taking preventive measures and then go out and serve as well and safely as they can.

They will patrol our streets to help stop crime or respond in ambulances to treat and transport us during medical emergencies. They will be up at all hours of the night and in any weather condition that Mother Nature sends us. If this COVID-19 nightmare continues as expected, they will continue to seek strategies on how to best serve, even if their own forces are decimated by the virus from too much exposure. Each day or night they report for a tour of duty, they will leave their families or loved ones confident their brothers and sisters in blue will do just as they are doing.

It is good to see that strong measures are being taken in many places. These efforts, which are true teamwork, will make a difference and help mitigate this challenge we are all facing. Ideally, when this is all behind us, we will take away a lot of lessons learned on how to better prepare for the next crisis through calculated and bold planning measures, stockpiling of critical supplies and building vital infrastructure to support community needs.


And when everyone goes back to a healthy routine, which will hopefully involve fun cookouts and a deeper appreciation of each other despite our differences, our public safety forces will be doing what they always do; serving others to help keep them safe. You will still see them inside police cruisers and fire trucks. You will see them preventing crime and saving lives. And they will continue to do it despite being exposed to dangerous situations, other infectious diseases, heat and flames, etc.

It takes a special person to want to regularly risk their bodies and lives to help keep others safe. But that’s exactly what your police and fire personnel do all the time —whether it’s COVID-19, international or domestic terrorism, natural disasters, fires and/or violent predators. This health crisis will highlight what they do so well: serve with distinction.


Tom Wetzel is the chief of police for the City of Richmond Heights police department in Ohio and former SWAT commander. He is also a certified law enforcement executive, adjunct professor in community policing and internationally published author on police topics.

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