Opinion

2 police officers are dead in Iowa. This nation needs to look deep into its soul.

Much as they did in Dallas and Baton Rouge when police officers were ambushed and murdered there, Iowa residents are reaching out to Urbandale and Des Moines police departments followig the death of two police officers.
Much as they did in Dallas and Baton Rouge when police officers were ambushed and murdered there, Iowa residents are reaching out to Urbandale and Des Moines police departments followig the death of two police officers. Urbandale Police Department

Before Daylight Saving Time arrives this weekend we may know more about the motives of a man who would execute two police officers in Central Iowa. But the darkness enveloping this country over murderous acts against law enforcement and those of bad police officers seem likely to linger long past the Winter Solstice.

Dating back to December, 2014, when two New York City officers were assassinated in Brooklyn by a deranged man who reportedly sought revenge for the police-involved deaths of black men in Missouri and New York, we have come to an awful place in police-community relations. This summer was scarred with eight police officer fatalities in Dallas and Baton Rouge — which were followed by the attempted murders of three Arizona police officers by a man who tried to run them over in his car.

Iowa is my home state and I lived in West Des Moines from 1994 to 1999. I can’t even imagine this happening in the mostly peaceful adjacent communities of Urbandale and Des Moines. I have a good read on the four “I” states — including Idaho, Iowa, Illinois and Indiana. Such a senseless, cowardly act of police assassination goes against the grain of these rural, agrarian cultures. Though Chicago’s issues are certainly an exception, I find it hard to comprehend where we are as a nation when officers are gunned down anywhere, but especially in the Heartland.

Maybe yesterday it was easy and naive to think such acts are restricted to urban areas where police/racial issues and sometimes the mentally ill ignite them. But not today.

According to the the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, the Iowa murders brings the 2016 toll of U.S. law enforcement officers shot to death this year (November 2015 to November 2016) to at least 50 — a 52 percent increase. Not all of these incidents involved ambush officer killings like those in Dallas, Baton Rouge and Des Moines, but it’s a scary number and an even scarier trend.

The Iowa police shooting comes on the same day a jury is being chosen in South Carolina where a former police officer is on trial for the murder of Walter Scott, a black man gunned down following a traffic stop in 2015.

I’m not one to look to our presidential candidates for a solution to these problems. The trouble is somewhere deeper, somewhere in the soul of this nation.

Before it is too late, we have to look at ourselves in the mirror and then at each other. We must acknowledge we are a society of good intentions with the potential to go off the rails — and that more of us need to speak up when we are aware of injustice, or who know people with guns who should not be armed. If we don’t, the unstable people with a wish to kill will continue to speak for us.

I’ll leave you with a posting I saw on the Urbandale, Iowa, Police Department Facebook page, a voice from the Heartland now touched by the rude awakening of homegrown terror that is not going away anytime soon:

“This is so heartbreaking, makes me not want my son to go into law enforcement. When is it going to end? This is enough.”

Robert Ehlert: 208-377-6437, @IDS_HelloIdaho

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